OTHER VENUES Artspace, Auckland, 2–31 October 1997 PUBLICATION essay Lisa Taouma
O’Neill was raised by her Cook Island grandparents in Ponsonby—once the home of Auckland’s Māori and Pacific working class. Her work acknowledges the arts she learnt from her grandmother and the Cook Island ‘mamas’ who regularly met to talk and make. Many of these arts were tinged with colonialism, having been introduced to indigenous societies, but adapted. O’Neill is known for her weavings and lei made out of modern, mass-produced, recycled materials, indicating a culture adapting to new urban contexts in places like Auckland. She dedicates her work to ‘Those who might have more access to the net than to acquiring the knowledge to knot one to fish with … those who leave their hands idle while blobbing in front of the TV … those who may be inspired by nightclub lights like me.’
Cottage Industry was made during O’Neill’s six-month residency at Wellington’s Rita Angus Cottage. She hangs twenty-nine discs—crocheted in wool in concentric circles—at eye level, spaced regularly around the room. O’Neill uses a palette embedded in the Pacific. The project scrambles references to high and low; to modernist abstract paintings (the classic 'target' paintings of Jasper Johns, Kenneth Noland, and, more locally and recently, Julian Dashper's drum heads) and to domestic arts and crafts; to a generic ‘international’ aesthetic and to a highly specific local one. With O’Neill, the Gallery organises a Market Day, enabling other ‘cottage industries’ to showcase their wares on trestle tables set up beneath the circles. To welcome visitors, O’Neill covers three couches with tivaevae.