Road Gallery artist Joseph O’Neal was recently interviewed by Erik Noonan for Sensitive Skin magazine. In this in-depth interview, O’Neal talks frankly about the approach to his work, the impact of last summer’s back surgery, the use of color and text in his drawings and paintings and the repeated symbols in his work. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from the interview.

Recovery Drawing Onassis 3 (2015) Joseph O’Neal


About starting and finishing a canvas:

“Pieces can look done but if they don’t feel right then there is no point. A painting should speak to the chest and nervous system not the eyes. Eyes are deceptive. It matters not what you see. I have seen many beautiful paintings that aren’t good paintings, and I have seen many ugly paintings that are great paintings. I view my job as having to arrange material, color, and form in a way that will give the viewer the greatest chance of having a transcendent feeling. A friend once said that good works have the ability to stop time for her, stop the earth from spinning. I feel this is a clear explanation.”

About the role of text in his work:

“Text does play a role in a lot of my work. I don’t view the text as anything different from any of the other colors, forms, or marks in my pieces. Usually the text is a result of automatism or a primitive reaction to what I see unfolding. Other times I have to go fishing for the right text. It is no different than rummaging through boxes of paint or my palette to find the right color. I’ll do this by flipping through literature and poetry. I have no ties to any context that it is used in the source I pull it from. I’m just looking for the right word or grouping of words.”

About the meaning behind his paintings:

“If a painting has a speck of blue on it would one consider the work to be about the color blue? Or any other color that may be present? My works are about nothing, certainly not anything tangible. There’s nothing to “get,” there is no puzzle to solve. Turn your brain off and be in the moment. If anything they are opportunities. The ocean isn’t about swimming but it provides the opportunity to swim.”

King (2014) Joseph O’Neal

If this has whetted your appetite, it’s certainly worth reading the whole interview and taking a look at O’Neal’s work.

Settlement (2012) Joseph O’Neal