|Bridge over troubled water|
Let me introduce you to Carolyn O’Neill, a very talented abstract expressionist artist who has recently moved to the local area. She continues to amaze me with her calm and focus in the midst of a busy demanding family life. But upon viewing her work you realise she has ‘arrived’, she has found a means to express herself and communicate her heart. Carolyn’s debut solo exhibition opens next month at Hope & Co Gallery. I am sure you will enjoy having a sneak peak at her work and finding about her journey as woman of faith, family and creativity.
Have you always been a creative woman? Did you grow up wanting to paint?
I don’t think I’ve always been creative; but I guess I’ve had some appreciation of it in my surroundings. When I was younger I used to be a typical follower of trends and had no idea really. It probably wasn’t until I started to collect vintage stuff that I began to focus more on the simplistic designs that attracted me. I pictured myself painting in my retirement. It wasn’t until I noticed that the foyer at my son’s kinder had a mural painted that I enquired about local art classes and began to paint about 9 years ago.
When did you start calling yourself an artist?
Probably when we moved to W.A. about 4 years ago when I pretty much quit nursing and began a visual arts course at Tafe. I no longer had an identity in the mental health field and decided to seriously pursue art.
What inspires your artwork?
I don’t know where to start with that question… There’s so much; architecture, modernism, sleek and minimalist designs, anything vintage, fashion. The creative process and all that entails. Music and sometimes lyrics. My faith, my passion and obsession and need for self expression. The freedom of painting and to some extent, the creative control I have with my work. I recently purchased a book ‘Living with a creative mind’ by Jeff & Julie Crabtree. It has been a great booster for my creativity and helped me to understand myself much more.
Since I tend to paint in isolation; a coffee and chat with a friend is also energizing and inspires me to create. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I do think that inspiration is everywhere. We just need to become more conscious of our surroundings and stop what we are doing now and again.
Who has been a significant influence on your creativity?
When I was still living in Melbourne around 6 years ago my church started a creative arts ministry. I eagerly became involved and as small group of artists we painted once a month during the service. This was a wonderful experience and made me realize that visual art can be a form of worship to God just like singing or playing an instrument. My faith and trust in God is a significant influence on my creativity. God the creator of the universe is the original artist in my opinion.
I would have to say my lectures at Tafe, who were very patient with me. They gave me the constructive criticsm I needed to really understand the technical skills in order to become an abstract expressionist painter. Also people from the art profession who have taken the time to look at my work with and give an honest critique. The advice these people have given has been invaluable. I learnt very early on not to take criticism no matter how harsh, personally; but to learn from it and be humble and teachable.
The last lecturer I had allowed me to do abstract work while the others had to do the set task. No one else was comfortable with abstraction, so it worked out well. She knew that I was passionate about learning and this really helped me gain some consistency and understanding of the technicalities of abstract expressionism.
I was also encouraged to research other artists in this genre and gather images in my visual diary. From that point I began to consistently document my work, it’s become a great discipline.The more that I look at my work I get a sense of what was happening in my life at that time. I’ve sometimes described my work as expressing a rollercoaster of emotions and I can see that now.
Perhaps I’m more in tune with my emotions after experiencing some very dark and lonely periods; especially relocating several times over recent years. My art has been like a place of respite at times, resulting in more of an autobiographical response. It has become a bit like journal entries and sometimes the title or some lyrics in a song fit.
How do you make time to work and balance family life?
I’m blessed with a very supportive husband, who has encouraged me to pursue art. So I don’t work in the traditional sense and therefore have time to paint while our 3 sons are at school. I do try to keep on top of the household chores and get some order happening before I go out and paint so I don’t get distracted. This is just in theory though….I also try not to paint on the weekends, so we can have some family time. Even it’s just a walk into town.
What projects are you working on right now?
I’m currently preparing for my debut solo exhibition ‘Arrival” next month at Hope & Co, so that is all consuming right now.
Some images of my work are also being published in an art book ‘International Contemporary Artists Volume VI. So some doors are beginning to open!I’m also trying to come up with some ideas for Scope Gallerie’s Art Award 2012. They are a gallery in Warrnambool who’ve just began to represent my work.
How can people keep in touch with your work?
Carolynoneill/visualartist on facebook is my temporary website for now and I’ve got an account on artwhatson.com.au. I’ve also go some work at Scope Galleries in Warrnambool