Skip to main content

John Bulunbulun, 1986

Martin van der Wal

inkjet print on rag paper (sheet: 42.0 cm x 29.7 cm, image: 25.3 cm x 25.3 cm)

John Bulunbulun (1946-2010), Ganalbingu (Yolgnu) painter and printmaker, healer and ceremonial singer, grew up on the island of Milingimbi and in Bulman in southern Arnhem Land. He began to paint in the early 1970s, when he also began his career as an arts adviser. At the end of the 1970s he went with his wife to establish an outstation at Gamardi, where he painted with Jack Wunuwun. During this time Bulunbulun received several grants and a fellowship from the Aboriginal Arts Board and was on the Advisory Committee for the arts at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. He was one of the first indigenous artists to make limited-edition prints, and one of the first to make lithographs. A lawsuit he brought against a garment-making firm in 1989 led to the establishment of copyright protection for Aboriginal artworks. Having gained a professional fellowship from the Australia Council in 1991, in 1994 he travelled to Sulawesi with a group of Yolngu performers to enact a ceremony that re-established relations between the Galanbingu and the Makasar people. Bulunbulunn’s work, characterised by fine, shimmery crosshatching and often featuring his spiritual animal, the guwaynang or long-necked freshwater turtle, is held by all major Australian galleries and has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2005

Accession number: 2005.61.2

Currently not on display

Copyright image request form
Request a digital copy of an image for publication

Artist and subject

Martin van der Wal (age 33 in 1986)

John Bulunbulun (age 40 in 1986)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery of Australia (NPGA) acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.