Liam O’Neill was born in West Kerry in 1954. His art comes from his own place. He paints his own people. He tells his own story.
‘I paint,’ Liam says, ‘that which makes Coma Dhuibhne unique. Mount Brandon, Cuas, Ninin, The Three Sisters, Dunmore Head, The Blaskets.
‘I paint my father and his way of life’ A life that hadn’t changed through the generations. That life was still the same when Liam was growing up there. The Blasket Islander Tomas 0 Croimhthain opened the door for us,’ says Liam He was a fisherman, and farmer but also a writer.
He gave us permission to write or paint our own stories. He said that this story needed to be told, ‘Ni bheidh ár leitheith arist ann’
For the like of us will never be again.
Liam O’Neill is a native Irish speaker from Coma Dhuibhne Like Tomas 0 Croimhthain, his background is fishing and farming. He is a father and both grandfathers were all fishermen. They fished the Atlantic off the West Coast of Kerry. They used the NaomhOg, a canvas-covered canoe to fish for mackerel and pollack. The rest of the time they worked in the fields. Saving the hay, oats and barley. Cutting and drying the turf. Planting and harvesting potatoes.
As a boy growing up in West Kerry, Liam had to do all the same work as his people before him. Liam fished in a NaomhOg with his cousins. They all had to help in the fields as part of the ‘Meitheal’ That’s when the neighbours got together to make sure the crops were saved before the weather broke. These neighbours would also go to sea in the NaomhOg and share the catch. That’s how they survived.
‘Ar scath a &elle a mhaireann na daoine.’ It’s in each other shade that people survive. Liam left West Kerry to be a teacher in Dublin.
He taught himself to paint with the palette knife. He returned back home after thirty years and settled again in Coma Dhuibhne.
If Liam O’Neill’s paintings could talk, they would speak Irish. In the past forty years, he’s had numerous one-person shows in Ireland and abroad.