Recognised as one of the senior Kimberley painters, artist Freddie Timms created beautiful sparse paintings in bold ochre colours of his Kimberley homeland. They are minimalist ‘aerial’ / map view of country…
Region: Kimberley, WA
DOB: c 1946 - 2017
Place of Birth: Police Hole, Bedford Downs, Kimberley WA
Community: Warmun, WA
Art Centre: Jirrawun Arts, WA
Recognised as one of the senior Kimberley painters, artist Freddie Timms, was given the bush name, Ngnarrmaliny Janama, after the place he was born, which is also known as Police Hole, on the vast East Kimberley Cattle Station, Bedford Downs. Timms grew up on Lissadel Station and worked as a stockman on stations in the East Kimberley for 14 years
Timms grew up on Lissadel Station, growing up on the busy property, Timms learned all the necessary riding and stock handling skills at an early age. He spent the next 14 years working as a stockman and contract mustered on most of the surrounding pastoral leases, including Bedford, Bow River, Lissadell, Mabel Downs, Old Argyle and Texas Downs. After the stockmen’s dispute in the seventies, which resulted in the removal of most of the people from their homelands, he was placed first in the Guda-Guda Community at Wyndham, after which, he and his family were relocated to Warmun/Turkey Creek.
It was in his early 20s when working as a stockman that Timms met and worked alongside Rover Thomas, who was to have a considerable influence over him and becoming a lifelong mentor. Other stockmen/artists that Timms converse and worked with included Jack Britten, Hector Jandanay, Henry Wambini and his father-in-law, Paddy Jampinji, who was one of the finest of the earlier Warmun/Turkey Creek artists.
Settling down with his wife Beryline Mung, at the tiny community of Frog Hollow (a small outstation attached to a small community at Warmun Turkey Creek set up by his brother-in-law Jack Britten) Timms was inspired by the elder artists who were painting there, and started to paint his stories. It was 1986, by then Timms’s was in his early 40’s.
In the company of the elder artists such as Rover Thomas and Hector Jandanay, Timms requested art materials from Joel Smoker, the first art coordinator at Waringarri Arts in Kununurra. Smoker was a regular visitor to the community and recognized Timms potential in his first distinctive canvasses and his confident grasp of the medium.
Using the knowledge and techniques that he had acquired in his early years, Timms created beautiful sparse paintings in bold ochre colours of his Kimberley homeland. They are minimalist ‘aerial’ / map view of country, large rounded blocks of colour. Lake Argyle/Ord river area stories, Argyle Diamond Mine country, Bulunyin country, Barungi country, Turkey Creek School.
Much of his works were from his experience and response of what the Gidja people encountered, from the ruthlessness and brutality of colonisation. Whilst some of his works make an explicit political statement, others are more of an intimate interpretations of those experiences.
His first exhibition held at Deutscher Gertrude Street Gallery in Melbourne in 1989 was received with critical acclaim and included a superb masterpiece Mandangala, North Turkey Creek 1990. In what appeared as a new and beautiful sense of irregular geometry, soft yet boldly defined blocks of colour depicted the area of Glen Hill and the Argyle Diamond Mine to the north of Turkey Creek. The fact that it now lay beneath water, having been flooded by the damming of the Ord River, made the work all the more poignant. There had been no consultation with the traditional Gidja owners. The places where he and his countrymen used to walk and camp, along with all its ancestral burial grounds and sacred places, were simply buried beneath the rising waters.
Author: Adrian Newstead OAM
Timms had become a seasoned exhibitor by the mid 1990’s, often with his friend Rover Thomas, producing a large body of works for the Kimberley Art Gallery and its association with the Warmun Community. Both employing a broader, more colourful palette than the natural earth pigments that were used by other East Kimberley artists.
Another influence was Frank Waters, who the artist met through their mutual friend Tony Oliver. It was in Watter’s Gallery in 1999 that Timms held his solo exhibition exploring the history of an Indigenous bushranger named Major who was shot by police in 1908, after killing whites at Blackfeller Creek. Much like Ned Kelly, Major was an ambiguous hero, as his knowledge of the bush reputedly led white men to Gidja camps for the purpose of genocide. Timms’ depiction of Major was influenced by his visit to an exhibition of Sydney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series, as evident in the squarish shape he gave to Major’s head.
Timms eventually left Sydney for Crocodile Hole to establish, with Tony Oliver’s help, the Jirrawun Aboriginal Art Corporation in 1994. This Indigenous Australian owned business and art centre operated from Wyndham in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia and became notable as the base for contemporary Indigenous artists of the eastern Kimberley region representing a small group of six leading Gija artists.
Freddie who worked with Rover Thomas and other first generation Warrmarn (Warmun) artists also danced in early performances of Rover Thomas’ Gurirr Gurirr ceremony. Freddie Timms has also held positions on the ANKAAA board for many years.
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