As a site specific, installation and performance based artist, Ani O'Neill graduated from Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 1994 and was quickly identified as one of the nation’s bright new art talents. This saw her immediate inclusion into exhibitions such as The Nervous System, Prospect, Bottled Ocean, and Brisbane’s Asia/Pacific Art Triennial and attributed to her status as a pioneer in Aotearoa’s Contemporary Pacific Arts. O'Neill has had a prolific exhibiting career, both nationally and internationally, including Singapore, Taiwan, Poland, Lithuania, Melbourne, Cambridge and Rarotonga.
Using wool, recycled plastic bags or items from discount outlets and opportunity shops, O'Neill makes objects which draw on traditional Cook Island handcraft skills to communicate the cultural values and teachings of her Cook Island Grandmother and their importance today. In this, her work embodies numerous issues - Post Colonialism, the environment, identity politics, institutional hierarchies, consumerism, world peace etc. Described as an ‘artistic provocateur’ and 'change agent’ whose work is ‘thought provoking and highly original’ (Isha Welsh), a unique and subversive aspect of O'Neill's practise lies in her ability to break down the barriers between people and art-world institutions, often creating an ‘awareness’ and a sense of community through cultural exchange and connective experience rather than pushing any individual statement. This has attributed to her growing international profile and status.
In recent years, O'Neill has spent an increasing amount of the travelling between her new home in Rarotonga and Auckland, New Zealand. A current focus has been the development of works that can grow project to project and adapt to tour like the ‘Kikau Broom project’, a school fundraiser, reviving local craft, which has become an exhibition itself and a component in numerous exhibitions.
O'Neill has been included in a number of high profile exhibitions including High Tide, Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, Poland, and The Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania, 2006; LATITUDES 2005, Paris Town Hall, France, 2005; The Buddy System, Art In General Artist in Residence, New York City, 2004; 9th Festival of Pacific Arts, Belau, The Federated States of Micronesia, 2004; apexart Artist in Residence, Tribeca, New York City; Art and Industry/SCAPE Artist in Residence, Rangiruru Girls’ School,Christchurch, 2003; The Auckland Triennial/Bright Paradise, Auckland Art Gallery/Toi o Tamaki, NZ, 2001; Lisa Reihana and Pacific Sisters, Biennale of Sydney, Australia, 2000; Biennale of Noumea, Tjibaou Centre Culturale, New Caledonia, 2000; Everyday, Biennale of Sydney, Australia, 1998; Cottage Industry (solo show), City Gallery, Wellington, 1997.