For many years, drawing was part of my daily practice until it drifted off in favor of jumping directly into painting and sculpting. Even when I did draw, transcribing sketches into paintings was never part of my process. I view both mediums as singular and separate pursuits. I had almost abandoned drawing completely until it unexpectedly re-entered my life last summer. In July 2014, I underwent surgery on the lumbar portion of my spine. A double laminectomy and double microdiscectomy were performed on the L-4, L-5, and S-1. After this delightful surgery, I spent innumerable hours lying in bed and on the couch. It was during this time, and with the foresight and encouragement of my girlfriend, that I began to draw again.
Drawing and obsessive viewing of soccer matches dominated the waking part of my days, and much of the first few months of my recovery. Initially, I only scribed Onassis drawings. Over and over, these drawings poured out by the hundreds. I was in to the fourth and fifth weeks of recovery before I began to embrace the non-objective side of my process that has dominated my oeuvre. I was unconscious of this until many months later when, with the help of my girlfriend, I began to analyze this happening.
I discovered that the repetition, rules and structure of the Onassis drawings provided me with comfort in the wake of the vulnerability of my situation. It was during this down time that I began to understand the role that the Onassis pieces play in my work as a whole. Just as Jacqueline Onassis is a contradiction in her own right; i.e. fortunate and tragic, the Onassis pieces are a contradiction to the rest of my oeuvre. For something to exist it has to have a contradiction; the color black is the contradiction to the color white, the sky is the contradiction to the ground. Through this discovery I have come to the conclusion that for my work to exist I must make these Onassis pieces, I must have the contradiction. The Onassis works contain structure and rules whereas my other work is lawless. They rely on each other in order to be effective.
Discover more artwork by Joseph O’Neal. They will also be featured in our Art Sale on Sunday February 22nd, 2015 in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC.