VISUAL ARTIST: Farhad Nargol-O'Neill

VISUAL ARTIST: Farhad Nargol-O’Neill

“I received my greatest schooling during my upbringing at home, where music, the visual arts, science, history, politics, language, and a love of learning were ever present.”

Farhad Nargol-O’Neill is multi-talented visual artist. O’Neill obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts Music where he received basic training in sculpture studio working with found objects

After graduation, O’Neill traveled extensively visiting major European galleries. He made a living teaching piano and selling his work to set up his sculptural practice.

In 1995, O’Neill spent ten years in Belfast, Ireland where he opened his first studio and exhibited widely. O’Neill had works purchased for public/private collection, received commissions for public murals and sculptures in many countries.

Currently, O’Neill is a member of Elm Street, past member of Sculptors Society of Ireland, the Sculptors Society of Canada and co-founder of the SPACE Gallery. Toronto and Rome will feature solo exhibitions of O’Neill’s work in 2013 and 2014.


The automatic writing began in 2005 as a way of interpreting the music line.   I would go to a performance each Wednesday at noon at my Club in Toronto, sit at the back, and begin to draw a blind contour gesture drawing that followed the musical line.  This form of writing began to take a character of script – eastern surely but not a particular written language.  Over time the writing also began to refer to the structure of a piece, and eventually also the overall construction of a performance.   Drawing on paper in this manner eventually led to drawing on a digital tablet, using the drawings in projection art and installation work, full sculpture in the round, and also drawing on lambskin and calfskin in the genre of illuminated manuscripts.   Music and line are the only true determining factors.

A selection from O’Neill’s Automatic Writing Collection

5 Minutes with Farhad Nargol-O’Neill

MAC:  What kind of freedom do you have when you practice ‘automatic writing’ versus more formal styles of calligraphy?

Total freedom, but it’s an interesting question.  Freedom only comes after discipline……..establishing control and then knowing when to let go.  All “forms”  contain within themselves their own logic.  The trick is to understand the nature of things, and then do what you want.

MAC: Is there a particular piece that you feel especially proud of? Which one and why?

For the Automatic writing?  The first ones on lambskin.  I was gifted with a skin by an artist friend named Rim Ayari from Tunis, when I was there in 2005 doing a mural for the British Council.  I kept the skin for years, not knowing what to do with it, until the automatic writing became enough a part of my practice to consider using the skin for that.  I listened to the recording of Bemsha Swing on the “Thelonius Monk – Great Hits” album, in particular the Charlie Rouse solo for a number of days over and over, and then executed a dozen drawings on after the other using a Chinese brush and a mixture of henna from Tunis and Indian ink.  Free, not so thought out, but looking at it in retrospect being very pleased.  Pic attached.

 MAC: Why is it important for you to have the work displayed as an installation/projection versus flat against a wall or in a case?

It is important to do both.  Working/projecting/thinking for a flat space carries with it different implications as opposed to working/projecting/thinking for a three – dimensional space.  It represents a different use of the Art.  In any case the thing is the quality of line, and line expresses itself/is contained by and relates to space differently depending on where it is. It’s good to try everything.

 MAC: What kind of music do you listen to?

Everything.   Classical, baroque, Romantic, Modern, jazz, chamber and symphonic music, electronic, jazz, flamenco, Irish and Indian music, blues, rock and roll (mainly Rush and Zeppelin these days).

MAC: Do you have a memorable performance that stands out from the Wednesday afternoons?

The first time I heard Lynn Kuo and the Les Amis ensemble years ago, when I realized that his automatic writing could turn into something, but how much further I had to go to turn it into something real, avoiding clichés or the desire to create a new form of musical notation.  Esthetics can be communicative without smashing someone over the head with a hammer, you know?


The Markham Arts Council would like to thank Farhad Nargol- O’Neill for taking the time to provide us with a great interview about his new collection of Automatic Writing.  It was a pleasure working with you!

If you have a creative mind and would like to share with MAC, we accept submissions every week and are hoping to showcase and share local talent.  Email us at and we’ll let you know how you can be our next Featured Guest.