Art Critic: Timothy Warrington
Ken O’Neill’s artistic journey has always been in continuous evolution and his art conveys the presence of a creative mind with the gift of direction. A talented contemporary artist albeit with more conceptual ties to a renaissance artist than many of his peers and a communicator of stories reminiscent of the unmistakable protagonists in our art history who exalted the written word for centuries.
O’Neill’s painting is indeed a refreshing reminder of what art is and what art ought to be as we are eloquently re-introduced to the notion that art must speak and have a voice. In his compositions we are energised and rejuvenated by the unequivocal power to project imagination and to capture emotion in its purest form. O’Neill’s medium of choice is oil on canvas and the style can be defined as Pop Art. The artist uses precise and delicate brushwork combined with a gentle colour pallette to entice and attract the viewer. The simplicity of the graceful lines and forms within the composi-tion create a sense of intrigue that provokes the spectator into reacting with curiosity and urgency although faced with a seemingly peaceful artwork. The result is a conceptual paradox where mind and heart are inexplicably in unison, seeking truth from an unexpectedly powerful artwork that simultaneously calls for attention but radiates more questions than conclusions. It soon becomes clear that the creator of such a wonderful manifestation of a profound mind is also gifted with clear creative vision and the artistic talent to to execute it.
In the ‘Wise Guys’ series, the storyboard format that O’Neill favours is utilised. The series presents scenes of a criminal underworld that is based in the Nevada desert. A leitmotif of this series is the group of suited men with wind-blown ties captured in compositions where the use of light is paramount and skillfully used to “set the scene”.
In painting, O’Neill tends to simplify the backgrounds, reducing them to flat expanses of muted colours to perfectly create a self-contained atmosphere allowing the foreground elements to take control as the living elements of the artwork. The interconnection of the paintings within a seri-es indicates a plot, however, like its characters, the story remains cryptic. The paintings present a variety of compositions and at times can be compared and contrasted with Scottish artist Jack Vettriano in how they are equally able to provoke thought.
On deeper investigation into O’Neills art, the crowded people and dimly lit scenes in the series ‘Casino Nights’ elegantly transform a two dimensional canvas into a window through the mood of romance and excitement of a grand casino. The style of painting is rather different compared to his other lines of work, but it seems to carry the same air of mystery and drama. His portrait paintings ‘Morning Coffee’ and ‘A Quiet Moment’ are also artworks of interest that depict seated ladies en-joying some coffee and reading respectively. These two artworks demonstrate O’Neill’s talent in the use of excellent chiaroscuro. The sun rays are alive, timeless and enchanting, warm and passionate in the momentary silence immortalised in the sensual compositions.
Ken O’Neill is a rare artist who shows no fear in investigating the human mind and feelings; a journey in which the artist is able to express himself, albeit retaining intellectual integrity, in his desire to stimulate the spectator to form ideas and imagine.