Toby O'Brien began painting in October 2016 and what started out as a journey of self discovery has quickly gained momentum and moved beyond that. The work poured out of him. Then, a few months after he began making art he was diagnosed with cancer. With the support of family and friends I kept working but it was a difficult time and something had to give. After bearing my heart and soul in my first show “Lovers”, I felt drained and exhausted.  

So I slowed down and instead of only painting I decided to read and turned to literature and artists I admired, for support. It was a time of mental as well as physical recovery. I searched through and looked closer at the hundreds of paintings and drawings I’d made. It became very clear that throughout my work, then and now, the same marks, signs, figures and symbols are repeated in an innate, intuitive and honest way. 

The necessity for me to produce this imagery and continue to make these marks with the differing emotions being felt is what I feel is important. These unfamiliar, complicated emotions that have lied dormant and unacknowledged are now the backbone of my work, allowing me to reach beyond my own lived experience, beyond my own memories in search for a more universal, dare I say it, spiritual truth.

Recently an artist, who I greatly respect and admire described my work as the “language of the soul” and although I feel right now this statement is too big to comprehend, deep down, somehow, it fits.