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Freddie Timms


Freddie Timms

1944 - 2017

Freddie Timms began painting in 1986, inspired by the elder artists already painting at Frog Hollow, a small outstation attached to the community at Warmun, Turkey Creek. He was by then, forty-two years old and had lived an eventful life as a young stockman on stations throughout the East Kimberley region. Freddy was born at Police Hole in 1946 and followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a stockman at Lissadell Station. At the age of twenty, he set out to explore and work on other stations. It was during this time that he met and worked alongside Rover Thomas who was to have a lasting influence on him. In 1985, he left Lissadell, to which he had returned after retiring from the physically demanding stockman’s life. He settled at the new community established at Warmun, where he worked as a gardener at the Argyle Mine. He eventually moved out to Frog Hollow with his wife Berylene Mung and their four children, taking a job as an environmental health worker and assuming responsibility for the general maintenance of the small community. While in the company of elder artists such as Rover Thomas and Hector Jandanay, who were already painting and achieving notoriety at this time, Timms requested art materials from Joel Smoker, the first art coordinator at Waringarri Arts in Kununurra. Smoker visited the community on a regular basis and recognized Freddy’s potential in his first distinctive canvasses and confident grasp of the medium. In a career that spanned more than 20 years, Freddy Timms has become known for aerial map-like visions of country that are less concerned with ancestral associations as with tracing the responses and refuges of the Gidja people as they encountered the ruthlessness and  brutality of colonisation. However, his political nature is characterized by more intimate interpretations of the experience rather than overtly political statements. 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. This underlying political dimension has remained implicit in Freddy Timm’s work throughout a career which has been punctuated by a number of politically explicit works. Another work, Whitefella-Blackfella, acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, overtly states the position of Aboriginal people in Australian society, placing ‘whitefella’ figures at the top, beneath which are painted Chinamen, then African and then finally 'blackfella right down at the bottom'. By the mid 1990’s Freddy had become a seasoned exhibitor having traveled to Melbourne once more to accompany and paint with Rover Thomas. He painted a large body of works for Kimberley Art Gallery through its association with the Warmun Community, including two works which currently hold the artist’s highest and third highest prices at auction. Both employ a broader, more colourful palette than the natural earth pigments widely adopted by other East Kimberley artists. This development in his work was widely perceived as a move away from traditional practice and was attributed, at the time, to the influence of Frank Watters, to whom the artist had been introduced by his mutual friend, Tony Oliver. Watters was widely reported as being concerned that Aboriginal artist’s be treated on equal terms as non-aboriginal artists and set about steadily building the value of his works as well as his public profile. His solo exhibition with Watter’s Gallery in 1999 explored the history of an Indigenous bushranger named Major who was shot by police in 1908, after killing whites at Blackfeller Creek. Major holds a strong place in Gidja history, much like Ned Kelly, but remains an ambiguous hero, as his knowledge of the bush reputedly led white men to Gidja camps leading to genocide. Timm’s depiction of Major was influenced by his visit to an exhibition of Sydney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series, evident in the squarish shape he gave to Major’s head. Timms eventually left Frank Watters and after a moderately successful show with Goold Gallery, left Sydney for Crocodile Hole to establish, with Oliver’s help, the Jirrawun Aboriginal Art Corporation. Having firmly established his reputation in the wider art world he produced works of consistently high quality since that time. Although he has yet to achieve a similar level of acclaim to that of the founders of the East Kimberley movement, Freddy Timms is foremost amongst those artists of the second generation. His was a unique Gidja perspective on the history of white interaction with his people. It is hard to think of another who expressed more poignantly through their art the sense of longing and the abiding loss that comes from the separation from the land that embodies one’s spiritual home.

Market Analysis

Freddie Timm’s work first appeared at auction as early as 1995 when the sole work on offer measuring 60 x 80 cm with Warringari Arts provenance sold at at Sotheby's for just $1,840. It would be worth at least ten times that amount today. By the end of 2001 however, no less than 23 works had been offered of which 21 had sold at an average price of $5,140. While his clearance rate may have dropped from this high water mark of 91% to the still very respectable 70%, his average price has doubled to $10,064 and is set to continue rising, given he is now statistically the 32nd most successful of all living artists. Interestingly, source provenance appears to mean little in determining the value of secondary market sales for works by Freddie Timms. Nor does the period in which works were painted and whether acrylic, powder pigment or natural earth ochres were used as the medium. Size is the major price determinant, along with the aesthetics of the image itself. Those works with a crisp clean contemporary look that achieve harmony and balance through a combination of shape and colour have sold successfully, while those in which bright contrasting colours combine with an unbalanced composition seem to fare badly. The average price of his major paintings at auction (larger than 180 x 200 cm) is around $31,000, works in the mid range have sold for an average of only $8,500 (approx 180 x 120 cm) and smaller works average just $5,500. Despite this, the artist’s third highest price was achieved by Mandangala, North Turkey Creek 1990 a work produced for Waringarri Arts measuring just 120 x 160 cm. This wonderful painting sold within the estimate range of $40,000-60,000 at $52,200 in Sotheby’s July 2005 auction (Lot  45). It was however eclipsed the following year when My Country 1996  a work produced for Kimberley Art in Melbourne and comprising five 120 x 240 cm panels executed in the artist’s more contemporary style, sold  for $66,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $80,000-100,000 in Lawson~Menzies Sydney November sale (Lot 55A). (This same five panel work re-sold by private treaty through Cooee Art in 2019 for $100,000). Another work in the artist’s contemporary style created for Kimberley Art had sold two years earlier and held the record at that time. Titled Lake Argyle Triptych 1996 and measuring a whopping 180 x 360 cm it realised its mid estimate in Lawson-Menzies May 2005 auction (Lot 47). Yet in 2010 a new second place record was established for a work in the more traditional style and palette, with the sale of Top Country 1996 at Mossgreen in August for $53,479 (Lot 39). This confirms that neither period nor aesthetic style is clearly preferred. Timm’s created a number of limited edition prints during the last 15 years of his life and these have sold for little more than their initial primary market retail price. His highest price for a print was set in 2007 when a serigraph (7/25) titled Lissadell Station 1996 estimated at $1,000-1,500 sold for $960 in Lawson~Menzies May 2005 sale (Lot 148). His record for an original painting on paper is $10,800 which was set in 2007 at Lawson~Menzies. All of the artists 20 highest results having been recorded since 2003. Although only four of the eight works offered in 2002 sold, he has been a far better performer since that time with 87 of the 117 works offered between 2003 and 2010 being successful resulting in a 74% clearance rate. Between 2011 and 2015 this fell to 63% with 38 of 60 having sold. This is likely to have been due to the release of more appealing works that were commissioned by Kimberley art through auction houses such as Lawson~Menzies prior to 2009, including three of the artists ten best results and eight of his best twenty. This began to lower from 2009 onward, when a broader range of auction houses began to represent Timms. Eight of Timms' highest 20 prices have been established since 2010, though 2015 proved a flat year for the artist with a heafty 21 works offered for sale of which 13 found new homes, though none recorded a top 10 price. In 2017, of the 12 works on offer, only three were passed in, with an average price of just under $12,000. In 2019 eight works sold of 13 at an average price of $7,298. Thoughthise was well below his career average of $10,064 he finished as the 19th most successful artist that year compared to his career standing at 32nd in the movement. Overall, works by Freddie Timms have steadily improved in value and while they are unlikely to escalate rapidly into the future, Timms continued to produce works of great integrity and interest right up until his passing in 2017, when he had established himself as the most important artist working in the East Kimberley. With his passing, and the demise of Jirruwun arts Freddie's works hve almost completely dried up in the primary market. Now principally sourced through the secondary market, his work will endure and steadily gain in status over time.

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