Geraldine O’Neill’s engaging portrait of designer John Rocha is the latest in a series of commissioned portraits of public figures to enter the National Portrait Collection. The Dublin-born artist’s depiction of Rocha could hardly be described as a boardroom type norm: O’Neill’s depiction captures Rocha surrounded by swathes of satin and a large scissors – the tools of his trade. The satin also serves to mimic grand historical portraits where lush swags of fabric acted as a foil or prop to add colour and contrast. Geraldine O’Neill recently scooped the Ireland U.S.-Council/Irish Arts Review Portraiture Award at the 185th RHA Annual Exhibition. Robert Ballagh wrote then ‘portraiture has always formed a part of Geraldine’s practice as a painter, but not, however, in the conventional sense – no boardroom stuffed with shirts for her! No, her sitters are far more informal and personal’. In that instance O’Neill’s daughter Siún was the subject, and her young spirit may be detected in the chalked grouping of child figures seen lower left in the Rocha portrait.
For more on Geraldine O’Neill click here to read The heritage of Apelles by Robert Ballagh, Irish Arts Review, Vol 32 No 2, Summer 2015, p 226.