Ashley O'Neal graduated from University of California at Santa Barbara in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fine Art.
She first lived in San Francisco in 1999 where she had her first exhibition. She then fulfilled a lifelong yearning to work on her art in Ireland. She did so settling in the wilds of Connemara, a rustic community on the west coast of Ireland. With it's unspoiled landscape and its very primal spiritual settings a great artistic hunger was nurtured. The landscape aspect of her work developed greatly during this time. She would take sojourns to Paris and London during this time to meet other artists. Taking some lessons from the well established art centers she returned to the US at the end of 1999. A patron of her work bought her first large scale piece. She returned to Ireland in 2000 for a six month residency in the quiet artistic community of Thomastown, Kilkenny. She lived in a large three hundred year old watermill which doubled as studio and living space in the quaint village. She then began a new series of abstract landscapes. During her stay she involved herself in the rich vibrant art community, meeting and working with many noteworthy 20th Century Irish painters She was involved in several major exhibitions in Kilkenny during her stay. A major part of her residency was curating several exhibitions of Local artists and well known artists.
After she completed her residency she decided to have a showing of her first works of Ireland in Dublin, at the First International Art Expo. She remained in Dublin for two more years where she set up studio, to begin the process of bringing landscape work and abstract work to a point of realization. She then decided it was time to go to New York and explore a wider art community, and also walk the streets where many of the great American artists of the 20th century made their work. During her time in New York, she explored a different aspect of her work, the landscape of nature disappeared, and the landscape of spirit began to appear in her work. The idea of landscape of spirit developed from the beginnings of interior work, while looking at how one experiences a city emotionally, alone. To find a quiet space in the city is rare, so much of the work that she did was by night, when the silence would appear, and the city was settled for just a couple of hours. With long hours in the middle of the night, she began to break down the idea of landscape, where landscape became a place of abstraction that had to do with contemplation. She needed to create art that had a fulfillment of peace in it, a sort of sacred space needed to be created in a city of sound, visual overload, and chaotic movement. The pieces she created during this time, were about getting back to the basics, line, form, and color, but still the essence of spirit.
She then was invited to stay in Austin, Texas in 2002 to set up a studio and do some work away from the city. While there she was apart of three group shows. Once again, Ashley returned to the landscape, different light, different space, and different sounds. Remnants of Ireland began to reappear in her work, but transposed with a new vibrancy, a new language. After staying in Austin for several months, completing a new body of work, she traveled back to New York, and settled in Brooklyn. Ashley lived and worked in Brooklyn for 3 years, set up an open studio tour for the area of Atlantic Avenue, which developed from a need to meet local artists, and to interest local businesses in the idea of exhibiting art. This idea developed from visiting cities in Europe and realizing, art needs to always be at the street level for it to flourish but more importantly for it bring culture to an area. The Atlantic avenue area, is now a thriving art community. After over 5 years of being in New York, Ashley decided it was time to return to nature, to return a place of solace, and peace.
She moved back to Dublin Ireland, where she set up a studio in the village of Howth, by the sea. Her interest in settling in this small fishing village lead her back to the history of Ireland, to myths, to sacred monuments, to the landscape of beginnings, and also where Yeats composed his first poems. This little village sits quite far from Dublin, and witnesses the sunrise, the first sunrise on the island of Ireland, so this was an appropriate place to begin a new journey in Ireland. She spent a year doing work near the sea, but longed for the epic West, to the light of the Atlantic. The West of Ireland, to Ashley was the true beginning, the edge of Europe, a place of emptiness, of longing, of forgetting, and of timelessness. The light of the Atlantic is like no where else on earth, but more than anything it is the land of the west, where secrets and stories still hold true, and where the essence of place is still very important. Roads remain empty, animals still hold the reign over the land: alone but knowing. Sacred wells and ancient dolmans sit like monuments to a time past but waiting to be realized. For an artist, this place, the west of Ireland, is a dream come true, as a sense of wonder and hope, a place that with all its history, still has a renewable source, that once tapped into, wants to speak. The language of art runs deep in these lands, and only asks the artist to sit and contemplate.
Recently Ashley has been invited to do two residencies in Cill Rialiag, County Kerry. She returned to the center of what she was seeking in landscape painting, by returning to plein-air painting. Truly the light in this part of Ireland is unique, the light has essence in it. Choosing to focus on the sky, the islands, and the sea only, an element of meditation has entered the work. The paintings created here began to take on a luminescence, everything in the air was unspoiled and pure. Remaining in one place, painting the same view, something special happens, the beginnings of illumination, ultimately enlightenment. Ashley currently lives in The Burren, in County Clare, the place they say is like being on the moon, covered in grey limestone rock, where primal plants bloom in the transparent summers. The Burren, a sort of desert of Ireland, a place empty, except of stone, sky, and roads, this is a place where the artist begins.