Micro Macro:
Lillian O’Neil

Artist Lillian O’Neil employs collage on a grand scale to create intriguing juxtapositions of the seemingly random.

written by Louise Martin‑Chew FEB 2019

Lillian O’Neil’s approach to collage may not set out to subvert our expectations, but her application of this age-old technique is unique. Equally, her journey toward this method of art-making is anything but ordinary. Born in 1985, O’Neil did an undergraduate degree at Monash University, graduating in 2008, and worked collaboratively with Blaine Cooper and Jonathan Oldmeadow as Safari Team until 2010. Their collective filmic projects included three digs to China, characterised by a unique idiosyncratic take on evolution, and a dance video. Having viewed the latter on Vimeo, I can vouch for the quality of O’Neil’s moves. It looked like fun; the reality was very different, she tells me from Japan, where she has just begun an artist residency at Youkobo Art Space. “Most of our time was spent in a freezing concrete studio wearing ski-suit onesies and working on exhibitions and events at Artist-Run Initiatives in Melbourne and Sydney.” The connections between this early work and the collaged grand narratives she constructs now are not immediately obvious, although they possess similar ambition and drama, filmic scope and epic scale. She began working with large-scale collage during her 2012 honours year at Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), study that progressed into a master’s degree in 2013–14.

The collage is constructed from an always-growing collection of second-hand books, generally printed between the 1960s and 1990s. Favourite finds include collections of “how to” guides: how to decorate your home, have sex, read minds and hypnotise. When O’Neil met Amanda Rowell, Director of The Commercial, at her graduation.. Subscribe to read this article in full

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