Lillian O’Neil (b. 1985, Melbourne) works in large-scale, kaleidoscopic, analogue collage cut from pre-digital books and magazines. The ongoing search for and mass accumulation of material is an important component of her process. Her vast library of material forms a kind of atlas of human activities, interests and beliefs from which she cuts images.
O’Neil’s works bring latent content to a conscious plane through both poetic constraint and accumulated fragments. Poetic constraint allows her to make unexpected combinations by re-contextualising imagery while accumulated fragments provide immense variation within generalised repetition. The outcomes of these two distinct threads are a kind of pop-sci-fi imagery structured by architectonic human figures and a decidedly more monochromatic melancholia. In the former, humans are the players within an ambiguous narrative. In the latter, humans are absent and her imagery operates more like a mood or texture of thought. Both types sit side-by-side in her practice.
O'Neil completed a Master of Fine Art at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney in 2012 supervised by artist, Mikala Dwyer.
Solo exhibitions include Pause before the fall, The Commercial Gallery, Sydney (2015); The Lonely Isle, The Commercial Gallery, Sydney (2014). In 2014, she presented a two-person exhibition, Isle of Somewhere, with Laura Delaney at West Space, Melbourne. In 2013 The Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, commissioned O’Neil to create a billboard for the CCP/City of Yarra Billboard. Total Romance, was her first solo exhibition at The Commercial Gallery, Sydney (2013), Love Machine at MOP, Sydney (2012) and Cream at Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney (2010).
Group exhibitions include the NSW Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging), curated by Alexie Glass at Artspace, Sydney (2014); In the Cut – collage as idea (which included works by Ellen Gallagher, Richard Larter, Linder, Elizabeth Newman, David Maljkovic, Henning Bohl, Tom Burr, Nikolas Gambaroff, Matthew Griffin, Mathew Hale, Ry Haskings, Henrik Olesen, Lillian O’Neil, Lia Perjovschi, Amanda Ross-Ho, Kelley Walker) curated by Hannah Matthews, at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; Pantone 705 C, The Mews Project Space, London; Living in the Ruins of the Twentieth Century, curated by Adam Jasper and Holly Williams, UTS Gallery, The University of Technology, Sydney (all 2013); THREE/THREE at The Commercial Gallery, Sydney (2012); House of Love at Seventh Gallery, Melbourne (2011); Super Market, curated by Kim Brockett, at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces (2010); Evolution, as part of the Next Wave Festival, Melbourne (2010); Group Group Show, curated by DAMP, at Margaret Lawrence Gallery, The University of Melbourne (2008). As part of the group Safari Team, O’Neil exhibited in a collaborative solo exhibition, Molto Morte, that toured in Australia and Canada (international venues were Galerie VAV, Concordia University, Montréal and Lab Synthèse, Montréal) (2008).
O’Neil has been awarded numerous grants including those from the Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Victoria, Melbourne City Council, the Besen Foundation and traveling awards from both Monash University and Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney.
Her work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Art Collector, Art Monthly, Australian Vogue, Belle Magazine, Photofile and VAULT.
In a recent issue of VAULT Magazine, Sydney architect Nick Tobias identifies his Lillian O'Neil collage as a highlight of his collection: "I remember when we saw it and it was just overwhelming. For me it continues to overwhelm. A lot of these other works have very subtle storylines, but that work is epic. It's historical, it's contemporary; it could be about your own life and its twists and turns. To me it's like a whole novel wrapped up in one collage."
O’Neil’s work is held in the Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide; Artbank; the BresicWhitney Collection, Sydney; and private collections in Sydney, Melbourne, London and New York.