Tom O’Neil does not follow expectations when he starts a painting. He approaches the canvas with an open mind ready to “pay attention to an impulse.” It seems impossible: forming cohesion by following whims, yet this struggle is not only the context but the content of his work. Each mark, then, is not a statement but a suggestion, a (re)mark. “Most of the time,” he says, “I’m making marks and crossing them out. When my cross-outs become the subject, when they become interesting, that’s when I’m onto something.” He creates a dialogue between himself and the painting by making a statement, waiting for the paint to question it, and responding. In this way he finds each painting’s character, and ultimately its purpose. A painting is complete when it’s no longer asking him “what if?”
The results speak for themselves: airtight layers that unravel in front of a patient eye; colors that swarm and bleed into one another, creating two-dimensional landscapes that seem to recede infinitely, images that seem to tell stories or ask the viewer to invent their own. His aesthetic is the the formal result of a debate between the authority of his intention and the unapologetic power of chance. This is symbolic of his mistrust in decisions and his immense appreciation for the open nature of questions; he’s quick to note that he does not have answers and is dubious of any artist that claims to (yet he’s even more wary of artists that do not ask any questions at all). At the core of Tom’s artistic and personal philosophy is the knowledge that Life is not about answers, that any question really worth asking does not have an answer but must to be asked anyway. So he keeps asking questions, and we get to enjoy the fruits of these explorations.