In 1968 Liam O'Neill began to work as an apprentice woodturner under John Shiel at Bagenalstown, whilst there, he was in close contact with the Kilkenny Design Workshops. He then worked for nearly eleven years setting up and managing the woodturning section of Retos, the rehabilitation facility for handicapped adults established at Shannon, Co. Clare. During this time, he attended courses in advanced woodturning, led by internationally known creative woodturners such as the Americans David Ellsworth and Bob Stocksdale. He was influential in setting up the Irish Woodturners Guild, in response to his own experience and the numbers of people who were moving into the area of professional woodturning.

From 1983-85, he won First Prize in the Royal Dublin Society's Craft Competition (Wood Turning Section). In 1984, he was awarded the Dr. Muriel Gahan Scholarship to the U.S.A. to travel and study with leading American Woodturners. Since 1992 Liam O'Neill has worked from his own Studio at Spiddal, Co. Galway, where he has been supported by Udaras na Gaeltachta. Whilst he makes large-scale production work, his interests has always lain in the way in which he could use woodturning creatively to make unique sculptural pieces. The creative thinking involved in this work plays back upon his production design thinking.

The development of woodturning techniques has always been important to Liam O'Neill. A creative idea develops, technical rethinking becomes necessary. By September 1997, he had designed and built a huge outdoor lathe to make the large vessels on show outdoors here. What is exciting about this body of outdoor work, is not simply its scale or the technical complexity of evaluating the wood used, but the fact that these outdoor pieces are elements in a single series. Some woodturners have used large scale turning, but none here or elsewhere have produced a body of such pieces as part of a coherent single body of thought and creative expression. The result is that their scale brought up those of the indoor pieces, many of which are large. In sculptural and woodturning terms, this is an exciting and adventurous project. It literally and metaphorically takes the possibilities of woodturning into new dimensions.

"Liam O'Neill is a unique sculptor who is first and foremost a master craftsman, and artist with a unique understanding of his medium.

He has studied the physiology of trees, what characteristics nature has given to different woods. His training made him an expert in woodturning techniques, but not content with this, he began to express himself and experiment, while at the same time allowing nature always to dictate.

In recent times, he has begun to scale up the work to fashion massive outdoor vessels. To see a collection of these sculptures together is to witness a powerful personal artistic statement about renewal, about the bringing forth of exciting forms from dead trees, the transformation of a block of wood into a work of art.

There are no embellishments, no ornate decorations in his work, only those nature intended. He uses the grain, the natural patina, the contours, the various arboreal qualities to his advantage, to give us the very essence of the wood.

These are tactile pieces which demand that you explore the surfaces whether they be textured or polished.

Ben Okri, the Nigerian novelist once said "The higher the art, the fewer the gestures." Liam O'Neill's creative harvesting of his much loved materials leave us in no doubt that his is a very high art form."

Tom Kenny, The Kenny Art Gallery, Galway


Tríoca ceathar blían ó shín thosaigh Liam O'Néill ag obair ina phrintiseach deileadóireachta faoi John Shiel i Muine Bheag. Agus é ag obair ansin bhí sé gar do cheardlanna Kilkenny Design. D'oibrigh sé ansin ar feadh beagnach 11 bliain ag bunú agus ag bainistiú rannóg deileadóireachta Retos, saoráid athshlánaithe do dhaoine fásta cithrimeacha a bunaíodh sa tSionainn I gCo. An Chláir. Le linn an ama sin d'fhreastáil sé ar ardchúrsai san deileadóireacht a reáchtáil deileadóirí cáiliúla idirnáisiúnta mar na Meiriceánaigh, David Ellsworth and Bob Stoksdale.

Bhí tionchar aige ó thaobh bhunú Chumann Dheileadóirí na hÉireann de bharr a chuid taithí féin agus de bharr an oireadh daoine a bhí ag dul le deileadóireacht ghairmiúil.

Ó 1983-85 bhuaigh sé an chéad duais ag Corórtas Ceardaiochta Chumann Ríoga Bhaile Átha Cliath. I 1984 bronnadh scoláireacht an Dr. Muriel Gahan air ar bhain sé leas aisti chun taisteal chuig Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá, ait a ndearna sé staidéar le deileadóiri mór le rá a Meiriceá. Thug sé cuireadh do dhuine dá chuid teagascóirí, David Ellsworth, chun táispeántas ag Seimineár Deileadóireachta na hÉireann 1984. Bhí tionchar aige sin airsean agus ar dheileadóiri eile in Éireann. Coinníonn Ellsworth dealramh agus cruth nádúrtha phíosa adhmaid mar chuid den tslí a mbitear ag cuimhneamh é a dheileadh go cruthaitheach. Ba chur chuige difriúil a bhí ansin agus bhí tionchar mór aige ar dheileadóireacht chruthaitheach na hÉireann.

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Visit our Gallery and Sculpture Garden during your next trip to Galway!

Liam & Cathy O'Neill
Wood Gallery and Sculpture Garden
Baile Eamoinn
County Galway
H91 WR6H

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