Interview with Young Irish Artist, Illustrator and Sculptor Ciara O’Neill
We spoke to Ciara O’Neill, all about her incredible and topical art that is speaking volumes around political issues in Ireland including Women’s Rights and Repeal the 8th. ‘Yungwuns’ our theme this month focused on celebrating Young Creatives in Ireland.
Women’s rights seem to be an ongoing theme in your work, can you tell us was there a particular event, thought, or moment that inspired you to visually investigate such topics?
I don’t think there was one specific event that spurred this ongoing theme in my work. I think it was a series of events: being sexually harassed, being the victim of assault, hearing of friends being raped, knowing that people close to me were having to travel abroad for abortions, knowing that people close to me were not being paid as much as their male counterparts, and constantly seeing women being slut shamed and judged for how they dress. All these things just added up over time till it was just too much to ignore, it became impossible to not allow it to seep into my visual work.
You recently graduated from NCAD where your project entitled “Imperfect Bodies” was very centered around women’s rights in Ireland. One part that especially struck us was the anonymous abortion stories, can you tell us did that take an emotional toll dealing with such a sensitive topic?
It was definitely a difficult body of work to undertake. There was a lot of late nights where I stayed up worrying about all these women, many I knew I’d never meet. I knew this one big secret they had, a secret that they had chosen to share with me. I felt connected to them emotionally but had no clue how to help them. I have so much respect for the women who contributed to that project. I can’t even begin to imagine the level of courage and strength it would take to come forward and share such a private and possibly heartbreaking experience.
Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process? Do you work quite methodically or is it more about playing with materials and seeing where it leads you?
I’m an annoyingly organized person so I usually plan in advance for a long time before making a piece. I am a big fan of mood boards, color charts and note booking my thoughts. I like to have an idea where the work is going to lead, that being said, if I feel a work needs to stray from its originally intended purpose I will allow that to happen.
Your work focusing on Repeal the 8th seems to get a lot of attention on Instagram. Was the response to this work always positive? Do you think it’s important for Irish artists to take a stance on the topic and contribute to the conversation?
Oh god no, I have probably received as much negative attention as I have positive. I used to have a twitter account but had to delete it because of the overwhelming amount of nasty comments I received. Here is the thing, I’m okay with people disagreeing with my views, but I don’t have time for people who use pettiness or hate to drive their point forward. I think it is important for everyone to sit down and think about what their stance on abortion is, regardless of if they are an artist or not. I think a referendum is coming down the pipeline and everyone needs to be educated on the topic, especially if their vote has the potential to change people’s lives. Democracy works best when everyone has a voice, it works even better when every voice is educated.
Since graduating from NCAD your work seems to have shifted from sculptural work to more digital processes, can you tell us a little bit about how your practice has changed since entering the big bad world?
I think after working in the same medium for a long period of time I just needed a change. I also find that digital work has more success on the internet than sculptural work, purely because the web itself is a digital device. It is quicker to produce and thanks to visually based social media sites such as Tumblr and Instagram it is easy to put it out into the world for people to see.
Can you tell us what your favorite piece of work is and why?
My favorite piece of work is a piece I am working on currently. It is a piece that is very personal to me, and deals with a rough experience I had recently. I guess I am using it to come to terms with a trauma. Like all my work, I can promise it has a feminist point to it, it deals with an issue that isn’t unique to just women, but it is something they suffer disproportionately to men.
Do you think that Dublin is a city that nourishes young visual artists?
I think that the art everyone in the art community is very supportive of one and other. I myself am part of a feminist collective, the girls within the collective are my art family, offering help and critiques where needed. That being said, the city could always offer more funding and studio spaces to its artists.
What is the next step for you? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
I’ll be taking part in an exhibition with the rest of the girls in my collective, Awkward Interjection, in June in the Pallas Projects. We are in the midst of planning the event at the moment so I don’t have all the information just yet, but keep an eye to my social media for more!
If you could have dinner with any three artists, dead or alive, who would they be and what would you say to them?
Jacq the Stripper, Frida Kahlo and my mate, and photographer Emma Roche. I think I’d just ask them to teach me how to be a bad ass like them.