Adelaide Biennial: Inner Sanctum | Lillian O'Neil, 2024 | curated by José Da Silva


Lillian O’Neil

Using found imagery from pre-digital books and magazines, Lillian O’Neil makes collages that weave together fragments of the past to form new scenarios and narratives. For Inner Sanctum, O’Neil has created a new series that considers ideas about the self and a multiplicity of selves, or split selves, experienced during ‘matrescence’, a term coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael to describe the time of mother-becoming.

For O’Neil, night is the pivotal period in early motherhood, when women observe and experience new intimacies. In the new works, we see the fragments of women lying down, sleeping or caught in states of being half-awake, alongside gestures of surrender and bodies crouched over and becoming one with their surroundings. Fragments of rocks from caves and tunnels, which appear to cradle and enclose figures, reflect a sense of the women retracting into themselves. O’Neil’s interest is in the psychic spaces inhabited by these mothers, where the only outside interference is light, with afternoon light spilling into rooms, creating time shifts or breaking up the experience of linear time.

The source material comes from O’Neil’s vast repository of material, gathered from local op-shops, book fairs and second-hand booksellers. Described by O’Neil as an ‘atlas of human activities, interests and beliefs’, this collection gestures to the tradition of cataloguing the history of world through imagery.