Rory O’Neill on his anxiety, Punk and pride within his own work
A huge misconception of the front-men and front-women of punk is that they are aggressive and angry. Rory O’Neill proves the exact opposite, he is one of the nicest guys in the Brighton punk scene and one of the most creatively talented too. O’Neill has done his fair share of posters for punk shows in Brighton, countless artwork for bands, a music video for Gnarwolves and since studying at Manchester School of Art, his work has done nothing but improve. He studied his art foundation at City College (now MET) in Brighton and his final art piece still resonates today, a beautiful moving graphic telling the tale of depression and anxiety. Mental illness is a heavy theme throughout his work, as is punk iconography so this week we spoke to him to find out more about what he does and why punk is a release.
WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVE INSPIRATION COME FROM?
I always find new sources of inspiration that drive my artwork in different ways – right now a main one is religious iconography. I find it really interesting how desensitised we have become to images of barbaric violence in religion.
HOW DID YOU ‘GET INTO’ ART?
I liked doodling and making comics as a kid, but I only really ‘got into’ art for myself when I was about 12, and started taking notice of graffiti. That sort of opened art up to me as something that could be exciting and dangerous, rather than a school subject.
WHAT ARE THE KEY THEMES WITHIN YOUR WORK?
I’d say the key themes are anxiety, pain and beauty. I’ve always been torn between viewing the world as a hellish place or a beautiful place, so I think I sort of dance between the two in my work.
WHICH THEMES RESONATE WITH YOU PERSONALLY?
I’ve had quite brutal experiences with mental illness as many of us have, so I definitely let that show in my work. I’ve been told that after seeing my band or artwork people can assume I’m an aggressive guy, but I think having these outlets allows me to be quite mellow.
HOW DO YOU FEEL PUNK INFLUENCES WHAT YOU DO?
Punk/DIY culture is the most important thing I’ve ever come across – it’s taught me not to rely on others to when it comes to doing what I want to do. Listening to hardcore and playing in bands has exposed me to so much cool artwork, so has had a big impact on my life.
DO YOU FIND THAT THE MUSIC YOU MAKE AND THE ART YOU CREATE ARE INTERTWINED?
Yeah definitely – Imposter is all about the psychology of aggression and violence, and the minds ‘devils’. I do the artwork for the band too, so the music and art are closely linked.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
I’d say getting out onto the streets and being observant is the most important part, there are so many weird and interesting things about human behavior that can be picked apart and fed into artwork.
WHAT MEDIUMS DO YOU USE WITHIN YOUR WORK?
Ink, charcoal, oil/gouache paints, photoshop, and more recently film photography.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING THING WITHIN YOUR ART FORM?
The most rewarding part is definitely looking at something I’ve created and feeling proud. I’d say I judge myself pretty harshly against others and don’t really trust positive feedback, so it can be nice to feel proud of something I’ve done.
AND, THE MOST CHALLENGING?
I tend to get a lot of anxiety and have panic attacks when I’m working, so actually making work is quite a challenging and intense thing for me. The only difference between making physical artwork and music in that sense is that I get to perform music live, which is a bit of a release.
HOW HAVE YOU FOUND BRIGHTON TO BE AN INSPIRATION?
Brighton is amazing, anyone who grew up there is spoiled in terms of culture and art. I grew up skateboarding daily so was always exposed to graffiti and street art, and the constantly evolving music scenes push everyone to get out and be creative.
WHAT PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE LINED UP?
I’m writing an EP for Imposter, a demo for an 80’s black metal influenced hardcore band, and a demo for a Slint-style [80’s American hardcore punk] band. I’m doing the artwork for the new State Funeral release, and I am also working on a photography project that I’ll hopefully turn into zine.