A beginner painting course in 2003 unlocked something in Bendigo-born artist Carolyn O’Neill, leading her to leave behind her career as a psychiatric nurse. “My past occupation has made me more aware of human emotions and the fragility of the mind, including my own,” she says. I don’t know about you, but I think a story this interesting needs exploring. And explore it I did, when I spoke with the artist – who now calls Hamilton home.
Art aside for a moment, I was both surprised and delighted to discover that we share a very similar home decor style. “I’m an avid op-shopper and collector of Mid Century homewares and vintage interior decorating,” Carolyn confesses (I hear you loud and clear!). “My home is an eclectic mix of old and new with lots of vintage collectables”.
The transition from nurse to artist was a gradual one, she tells me, with the support of her family firmly in place. She admits, though, that seeing her works on display can be a little confronting. “For me it’s like opening up my journal for all to see. [Though] my central goal is for the work to have an emotional connection with the audience; if that is achieved, then perhaps I’m on the right track”.
Her pieces have certainly had an impact on me, my favourite being Undercurrent, one of her past works, because I love the blue and green tones she’s used in it.
She overcomes artists block by taking some time away from her pieces. “If a painting isn’t working I know that if I don’t leave it alone I’ll probably ruin it. Going for a walk, flicking through magazines and art books for inspiration is also beneficial,” she tells me, “Because I work in oils, the painting needs time to dry, so I work on several at a time in stages and usually work out how to resolve one whilst working on another”.
Carolyn is currently preparing for a group show in August with the Manyung Gallery Group and will possibly undertake a solo show later in the year. “I’d like to enter something for The Blake Prize but the deadline is looming… perhaps next year”.
I am personally head over heels for her abstract expressionism and the interesting story behind each artwork. It’s clear her time as a nurse has had a very distinct impact on her work. Carolyn herself appreciates how much it’s made her understand the need for self expression. “Some of the best songs would not have been written, great films never made and famous paintings never created without it”.
You can see more of Carolyn’s amazing pieces, including her full bio and CV over on her website – http://www.carolynoneill.com.au.