Starkwhite is delighted to welcome Ani O’Neill and present her first solo exhibition with the gallery, Classic Hits, from 14 March – 10 April 2019.
When Ani O’Neill graduated from Elam in 1994 her work immediately found prominence. Using wool, fabric, florist ribbon, and items from clearance stores and op shops, she made objects that used Cook Island handcraft skills to communicate the cultural values and teachings of her Cook Island Grandmother. O’Neill’s work drew on traditionally feminine making techniques and materials but was anchored within a contemporary art context and dialogue for an urban audience of the new millennium. This hip, witty, colourful, yet provocative practice explored issues including Post-Colonialism, gender, identity, the art-craft divide, and tourism’s commodification of Pacific culture, drawing directly from her experience as someone of Pasifika heritage living in an urban New Zealand setting.
Ani O’Neill is a change maker. From our current vantage point which sees Pasifika artists prominent within the Auckland scene and female Pasifika artists producing some of the most interesting practice of the last decade, it seems odd to remember this wasn’t always the case. Ani O’Neill has been described by art historian Karen Stevenson as one of the core members of a group of artists of Pasifika descent who brought contemporary Pacific art to ‘national prominence and international acceptance’. But more importantly, it could be argued that O’Neill’s practice and way of working helped paved the way for many of the dynamic new/niu Pasifika artists we see today.
Ani O’Neill’s practice spans installation, object making, and performance both as a solo practice and in collaboration. Bringing together some of the core elements of her work, as well as a major tivaevae work not seen since it was first exhibited, Classic Hits offers a sampler of O’Neill’s influential practice and an opportunity to rethink and review her role in the New Zealand art scene.
Ani O’Neill was born in Auckland in 1971 and is of Cook Island and Irish/NZ descent. She graduated with a BFA from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 1994 (sculpture/installation) and has exhibited extensively in New Zealand and the Pacific Region, as well as the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Brazil, Singapore, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and Lithuania. O’Neill is a member of the Pacific Sisters collective, and has held many prestigious residencies including the Rita Angus Artist in Residence, Wellington (1997), Artist in Residence APEXART, New York (2003),