Jimmy Pike was born in the Great Sandy Desert, where he spent his early life hunting and gathering with his family and moving from waterhole to waterhole with the seasons. During these years he learned ceremony, mythology and knowledge of specific sites in Walmajarri country.
First contact with Europeans
When travelling north with his family as a boy, he contacted Europeans for the first time and went to Cherrabun Station where he became a stockman. Later he made boomerangs, spears, clubs and shields, incising them with designs indicating ancestral tracks and Walmajarri stories. These were sold through local outlets and to European visitors.
Pike began to draw and paint in Fremantle Prison in 1980. He attended art classes that were part of the Prisons Department Art Program and taught by Steven Culley and David Wroth. Pike painted for about 18 months before being introduced to linocut printing. He engraved his blocks so vigorously that they were in danger of breaking up.
Pike's 1984 linocuts, transferred to screen, editioned and accompanied by explanations from the artist, were first shown at a solo exhibition at Aboriginal Artists Gallery, Melbourne, in 1985. That year Pike began to produce colour screen prints, still reliant on plain areas and linear marks derived from sand drawings.
Pike also worked in acrylic on canvas, working out in the open at his desert camp of Japingka. To him, painting was a job, the means to an independent life, as he candidly stated, "I work for money".
His works communicated strong law, recent events and concrete elements of desert living. He was an important participant in the Native title canvas project, Ngurrara 1 and 2. The artist's work was included in numerous exhibitions of Aboriginal art including L'Eté Australien à Montpellier, Musée Fabre, France, 1990; Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1993. In 1996, a major solo exhibition of the artist's work was held at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.