Nigel O'Neill's paintings consist of a number of vibrantly coloured units. Based firmly in the enlightenment tradition, the shape of these units evokes a perspective and illusionistic space, undermined by the reality of colours juxtaposed on a single plane. Different sections of the plane are fictitiously pushed backward or forward by our visual interpretation of lines and colours, making flat surfaces appear able to operate spatially. This ancient notion of visual space, which is simultaneously asserted and denied by the fiction and reality of the works, seemingly manifests a logical or mathematical interpretation of the work as part of an intellectual endeavor beyond the realms of a purely technical craft and brings us sharply to the question of function. What is the purpose of such a paradoxical construction?
Each painting presents a compelling position through an ambiguous internal spatial and functional relationship between the painting and the structure of the painting support. The systematic form of removable panels attached to a base with Velcro® is designed to facilitate the numerous adjustments O'Neill makes to the colour during the working process without destroying the sharpness of form or edge. O'Neill is only concerned with producing paintings, but his works are also perfectly internalized design objects; they are primitive yet perfected art production machines whose singular function has been developed to generate, somewhere in the real world, the visual desires of Nigel O'Neill.
A founder member of Chisenhale Artplace (a registered charity which houses Chisenhale Gallery, Chisenhale Dance Space and Chisenhale Studios), O'Neill has been working in the studios since the early 1980's with similar forms.