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Artist Profile: John Dewar


Name:                      John 'Long Johnny' Dewar

Tribe:                       Mayali

Skin Group:             Ngarritj 

Moiety:                        Yirritja  

Language:               Mayali, Kriol, English

Born:                       1/7/56          

Area:                        Manyallaluk Community

Mediums:                 Acrylic on Canvass, Ochres on Bark, Paper and Artifacts

Subjects:                 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.

Artists Biography:       

Marital Status:  Single

Exhibitions:  Katherine Prize Exhibit, 2002

John Dewar 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 survival.

Although 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.

When he 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.

Johnny 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.

In 2001 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.

Many of 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.

Another 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. 

John often 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 forth. 

If you 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.

Collections Held

Private Australian and International Collectors

 

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