When Marcie Oneill's not surfing or being a dad, he's just doing regular stuff, like you know, performing spoken word poetry into the soundtrack of live string instruments and using painting and sculpture as an outlet to explore the human condition. While his body of work transgresses medium and subject matter, one commonality throughout Marcie's creative output is that it may leave you feeling slightly unsettled. The self-taught artist employs religious iconography coupled with sinister imagery to delve into morality, mortality and more. Working out of Manly on Sydney's Northern Beaches, Marcie has exhibited his work here and abroad.
Introduction by Ingrid Kesa and Interview by Katrina Holt
Who is Marcie O’neill and how does he approach life?
I’ve always bitten life off in big chunks. Sometimes you choke and spit it out and, if you’re lucky, you won’t need medical attention. Sometimes you digest it and, whether it tastes good or bad, it becomes food for thought and the impetus for creativity.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
If I ever grow up I’d like to remain a kid.
How is spoken word an extension of your art practice?
The creative process for me is the same across all mediums. I am constantly trying to distill a meaningful narrative from the white noise and static of life so that I might find some order in chaos. For me, words and images have the same origins and are reconciled in the same way. It [the creative process] is a futile and existentialist exercise, but it is a beautiful and frustrating distraction.
What subject matter are you most drawn to?
I am attracted to exploring the intangible and esoteric nature of the human experience as it demands intellect, abstraction, sensitivity and, sometimes, brutality to reconcile. In this light it is possible to see the horror in beauty and the beauty in decay.
Where have you performed?
I perform at galleries and events around Sydney, in particular Wild Things Gallery on the Northern Beaches as well as inner city pubs like the Flinders and the Hopetoun (before it closed). I don’t really see myself as ‘a thing’ so I don’t self-promote. I usually perform at the invitation of curators and bands who want to add an avant-garde feel to their night. My performances are quite short as most people can only handle being screamed at for so long, which allows me to crash most shows unofficially without being on the bill.
I recently performed in Tokyo with traditional drummer ryugi okamura at an event held for robin Kegal and his longboard company Gato Herói. I also recently performed in a show with the Australian Chamber orchestra Underground, which was curated by Satu Vänskä.
Where does the idea for a new spoken word piece come from?
The inspiration for a poem can be as embryonic as a single word that strikes some chord in me and resonates until I am able to flesh it out and give it life, or it can be a whole concept that simply needs to be illustrated. either way, I believe that the work already exists in the world and the challenge is to uncover it in the same way that a sculptor chips away at unwanted material to reveal what was always there. This for me eliminates the ‘blank page’ conundrum; it helps me believe that it is possible to create anything.
What else motivates you?
Fear, hunger, boredom — the usual things. I wouldn’t describe myself as a highly motivated artist because there is no ambition attached to why I do anything. I do what I do as a way of filtering my mind and processing the contradictions and hypocrisy that we as humans find in ourselves and others every day. In that sense, the will to create can be a tightrope walk between ego and truth, art and pretense. It is a scary mirror sometimes, but it can also be liberating and beautiful. of course I want people to like me and my work, but it’s usually when I don’t care that they do. The goal for me creatively is stay on the tightrope — no more, no less.
Who else’s work do you admire?
When I was a kid I was completely obsessed with the paintings of Francis Bacon, and I still am. It was the first time that art not only spoke to me, but screamed for my attention. Bacon’s butcher shop palate and his fractured faith, stripped bare for all to see, was the brutal honesty that crystalised my developing creative mind. As for poetry, I can pinpoint the moment I discovered the spoken word as art — Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’. Simple as that. Everything I have liked since then contains some of their DNA. if you weren’t you, who else would you like to be for a day? I barely have the qualifications to be myself let alone someone else.