John 'Long Johnny' Dewar
Mayali, Kriol, English
Canvass, Ochres on Bark, Paper and Artifacts
flora and fauna of the region. Certain animals appear frequently: the
black-headed python, his dreaming; goannas; fresh water crocodiles;
short- necked and long-necked turtles; rock wallaroos; barramundi,
catfish, bream, saratoga and other fish. He often includes water lilies
in paintings of aquatic creatures.
Exhibitions: Katherine Prize Exhibit, 2002
was born in Katherine, NT, but spent most of his childhood growing up at
Manyallaluk. Johnny remembers going with his father to hunt freshwater
crocodiles in the Katherine River when he was just a little boy. After
his mother died, Johnny and his sister were raised by a young auntie who
took them walking in the bush and taught them about bush tucker and
he has lived in the Katherine region most of his life, Johnny?s
traditional country is further north in the Oenpelli area. Like many
others at Manyallaluk, he wound up in this setting because his family
moved to Eva Valley Station (now Manyallaluk) to work on the cattle
station and the Yeuralba tine mine.
was a young man, Johnny took up work as a stockman and was employed at a
number of cattle stations in the area, including Mainarou, Florina, and
Dalywater. Eventually he came back to settle down at Manyallaluk and
took on the job of tour guide in the 1980s when the Manyallaluk tour
business was getting started.
credits his brother, Peter Bolgi, as being his art teacher. Peter
taught him how to harvest stringy bark, make his own natural pigments
and use a reed brush. Now Johnny is one of Manyallaluk?s most prolific
artists. His still works with natural ochres but for the most part has
switched to working with acrylics. His paintings are in high demand
with the many tourists who visit Manyallaluk and have been purchased by
numerous Australian and international visitors. He also gets many
requests for special commission pieces from people who have met him and
seen his work.
The Gallery of Aboriginal Artists of Australia purchased several of
Johnny?s canvases and in 2002 the gallery owner commissioned several
further paintings from Johnny. They now have about twenty of his
canvases. In 2002 John entered a painting in the Katherine Prize art
competition and exhibit.
the images in Johnny?s canvases depict flora and fauna of the region.
Certain animals appear frequently: the black-headed python, his
dreaming; goannas; fresh water crocodiles; short- necked and long-necked
turtles; rock wallaroos; barramundi, catfish, bream, saratoga and other
fish. He often includes water lilies in paintings of aquatic creatures.
theme in his paintings is the depiction of dreamtime stories. He has
painted several versions of stories about the Rainbow Serpent, the story
of the frilled-neck lizard and the bukbuk owl, and the story of the emu
lady. He has also illustrated other stories that he remembers being
told by the elders when he was just a young boy.
paints mimis. Frequently they are engaged in some activity like
hunting. These paintings seem to have evolved into ?people paintings?
In these paintings he creates a human interest story involving
interactions between characters and a range of human dramas. He has
painted stories of love, adventure, treachery, danger, jealousy and so
were to visit his donga, you would most likely find Johnny hard at work
on a canvas, a bark painting or a didgeridoo. In his words, ?I don?t
like to just sit around; I like to paint and keep busy.?nbsp; He also makes
spears, spear throwers, clap sticks and some small carvings. When he is
not at work as a tour guide or involved in making artefacts, Johnny will
take off in his little ute and go bush for a day or two, hunting,
fishing and gathering raw materials for more artefacts.
Private Australian and International Collectors