• By: Keith Whittier

Eryn O’Neill Explores Ottawa’s Urban Side

Above: “Infrastructure” Oil on Canvas by Eryn O’Neill, 30×48, 2015.

If someone asked you to describe Ottawa, what would you say?

The first images that come to mind might be the canal, Parliament Hill or one of the many museums in this historic city.

But Eryn O’Neill had a different idea.

O’Neill, a proud Ottawa local artist, wanted to create a body of work representing her city from a different perspective.

“I’ve done a few paintings of the classic Ottawa scene, but I thought this is just a different way for someone to engage in the city,” she says.

"Off Duty" Oil on Canvas, 20x40, 2015.
“Off Duty” Oil on Canvas, 20×40, 2015.

“I thought, ‘Okay, Ottawa is where I live, where I explore. I walk everywhere. This is going to be my version of Ottawa,’” she says.

The result: a creative, oil on canvas collection titled ‘Obdurate | Endurci,’ currently on display at the Ottawa Art Gallery. O’Neill’s paintings illustrate a unique, urban outlook on Ottawa scenery. From a pile of crumpled pylons to a towering crane, O’Neill turns the simplicity of the city into art.

“These are objects that people don’t see. They are purely functional. You pass them every day. Those are the scenes of what cities are made up of,” she says.

“It is to me, as pure Ottawa as I could find.”

Growing up in the west end of the city, O’Neill found her love of art at an early age.

"Obdurate I Endurci" Ottawa Art Gallery ART Rental & Sales. Photo credit: David Barbour.
“Obdurate I Endurci” Ottawa Art Gallery ART Rental & Sales. Photo credit: David Barbour.

“I guess it was my parents who put me into art classes. It started quite young, I think I was about seven and then teachers helped keep me into it and focused me in different classes,” she explains. “From there, I studied it full-time and there you go.”

O’Neill completed a one-year portfolio program in Ottawa and then moved to the East Coast to attend the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and then returned home.

“I came back not really intending to be a full-time artist. It just sort of happened organically. I was working at other jobs but I thought, ‘Okay, I have to put full attention to this or I’m never going to get it off the ground.’ So, I took that leap of faith and here we are now.”

O’Neill says this show is one of her proudest moments as a professional artist.

Zara Ansar (Photographer) Stephanie Germano(Curator & Director) Eryn O'Neill (Artist)
Stephanie Germano, ART Rental & Sales curator and manager (left), and Eryn O’Neill in the gallery. Photo credit: Zara Ansar.

“This is a pretty big deal,” she says. “I was able to take some risks. So, I’m very excited that I’ve got to this point and that I’m just going to keep going and see what happens next.”

Obdurate | Endurci is on display at the Ottawa Art Gallery until May 31.

Click here for more information.

To learn more about Eryn O’Neill, visit her website here.