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LOU HAMILTON

Passion & Purpose - one propels the other


Peace This is a mixed media piece, which I created from an old Peace t-shirt that I designed for our Brave New You Apparel, along with crumpled rice-paper put in place with adhesive, calligraphy ink and acrylic. It builds outwards in concentric circles to create a target-like effect. The peace-sign is reminiscent of the Ban the Bomb campaign in the seventies and eighties, and earlier in the late sixties when I was living in Canada it was a strong symbol of protest against the Vietnam War. A target is normally used for practice with a weapon, a point of focus towards which we aim and kill. By putting the peace sign at the centre of the target, it creates a moment of protest, perhaps a thought for the victim, a question as to the pointlessness of killing, of warfare, of pitting one against another. I made this piece just before the recent attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which was the 17th U.S. school shooting within the first 45 days of 2018. The artwork became all the more poignant as news of the horror filled our screens in the aftermath of the killing; fourteen children and 3 teachers mown down by a 19-year-old young man wearing a gas mask and toting an assault rifle. But the mass murder didn’t trigger more violence. Instead children, their teachers and supporters across the nation took to the streets to call for the end of gun crime, for a change in gun laws, to urge for a more peaceful approach to living alongside one another; one that requires teachers to be armed with pencils not weaponry. There was a chilling calm in the call for peace by children to the leaders of their nation. The stance of a nation starts with the responsibility by each individual. This painting is not just about external violence, but also about the internal machinations, negativity, anger and aggressive thoughts that play out in our heads. Reaching some kind of personal peace is a life long process, taking daily practice and discipline. Learning peaceful negotiation with oneself is the start to being able to create it in our personal relationships, communities and between nations. This is the backdrop with which we stand before the painting; a simple piece of concentric circles in calming blues with the character from my books, Brave New Girl, holding up the peace sign at its centre. We can focus our minds, with soft attention on our tensions, and with each breath allow ourselves a more peaceful mindset. Can a painting do that? Maybe its enough, if you like it, to hang it as a gentle reminder to take a minute out of your busy day, take a few breaths, relax your shoulders and neck, and centre yourself in the spirit of calm.


“Peace” Rice paper, fabric, ink, acrylic 50 cm x 50 cm

www.louhamiltonart.com

IG brave_newgirl


Order Breaking up with a white canvas is always a daunting prospect when you start a piece of work. The pure space challenges you to leave it alone. There is something about its blank square that already feels complete and somewhat of an act of disturbance to mess it up. Because of this I have to trick myself into the first step. I go with the sense of disruption by doing something messy and ‘wrong’. It breaks the purity and allows me to begin, without worrying about creating something as perfect as the white square. With this piece I began with scraping plaster with my fingers across the surface in a circular pattern, and by doing so, immediately extruding the surface from flat, outwards into a sculptural plane. I scratch further into the channels made by my fingers with a stick or the side of the palette knife. In my mind’s eye I am imagining my character Brave New Girl doing her daily meditation walk, round and round in circles before trailing off towards the edge of the canvas, off on her next adventure. Still the plaster is white against the white gesso of the primer; it is calming but still too flat; not enough of a narrative, nothing deeper to read into. And so I feel ready to start painting. Acrylic at first; in random brushstrokes and vibrant colours. I create chaos. It’s freeing to paint with wild abandon, with no notion as to any particular outcome. The plaster circle forces certain marks but otherwise there are no constrictions. I am liberated at this stage to make as many ‘mistakes’ as I please, the more the better. If I like a painting too soon it’s usually disaster; it means I finish too early and the painting is flat and soulless. It’s best when I hate the results of this layer, the plasticity, the colours, the chaos; but because acrylic dries quickly, I can move on to the next layer before I become too disheartened. Now it’s time to work with oils. There is something deeply satisfying about working in oil. It’s texture, it’s viscosity; the way it slides into place. I prefer to work with sponges and rags, rather than a brush with oils. Partly because I haven’t the patience to clean my brushes properly but mainly because I like the direct contact that rags give my fingers to the paint and canvas. Even though I wear rubber gloves, it feels better to work closer to the paint rather than from the end of a stick. However, at first, I mix the paint with a cold wax medium to thicken it and use a palette knife to drag it across the surface, leaving pockets and pitted glimpses of the colored layer below. In this piece I am using shades of off-white. I want to return the piece to calm from the chaos of the colours. I want to create order and a sense of peace. Like my daily meditation ‘enso’ ink drawings, which are calligraphied circles on white paper, I decide that the circle on this painting will be a deep indigo, nearly black against the whites. The final result is a simple dark circle on white; the focus in one’s mind’s eye on the balancing of life between chaos and order.


“Order” Oil, plaster, acrylic 50 cm x 50 cm

www.louhamiltonart.com

IG brave_newgirl


Onwards Made with plaster, acrylic, oil and recycled plastics, this piece evolved slowly. I was working with the plaster on the canvas and thinking about texture. Either side of the plaster circle was smooth and I thought about the circle as a globe, our planet and how we are gradually destroying it, with our outpouring of plastic waste into the oceans. The seas are suffering, the fish, the underwater environment and eventually we will too. I thought about the contents of my recycle bin and the documentaries that told me that it was not guaranteed that it would indeed be recycled. So I pulled out the plastic bags and mesh that had unnecessarily wrapped up all my food shopping and started to try and tear it into small pieces to use on my painting. It was frighteningly hard to work with, to tear or rip. It just stretched and turned into tough sinews that cut my fingers. If it does this to me, what does it do to the fish trying to swim through it? No wonder they choke or suffocate on the plastics swamping their territories. With great difficulty, I managed to stick the plastics to the outside of the circle, a silent deadly sea. Once it has dried I began to paint the acrylic layers; dark indigo, Prussian blue, greens in broad brushstrokes like the deep oceans attempting to swallow the plastics. But in the centre of the circle it was still smooth, a haven, a clear space, plastic free, a hope that we can move onwards to a more environmentally friendly world in which we take responsibility for our waste. Maybe that inner circle is each individual, each able to make a difference. Maybe it is a symbol of our choice in how we move onwards; to destruction and self-annihilation, or to a more sustainable future? The circle is life and life is what we choose it to be. How do we fill our circle? Do we make it a safe space, a place of calm and peace, out of respect for our fellow planet dwellers and for the environment that allows us to exist? All these thoughts run round my head as I paint, as I build a narrative in materials and paint. And then it is time to start painting in oils on top of the acrylic and plastic turmoil. This is the time where I leave the thought process, the meaning and purpose, the intellectualizing behind the painting, aside. Now is the time to paint, intuitively, without my left-brain logic engaged; just paint. The backbone, the foundations to the work are there; it’s strong and it gives me a sold base to build on. Because of that structure I feel free to let the paint on my sponge, rag or palette knife do its thing. The colours or shades of white, with their hints of pale yellows and greys, soft, subdued and quiet, silence the uproar below into a quiet protest and offering of hope. The paint has its own way of talking, even in abstract form. The subtleties of the stroke and the shifts in palette all have their own emotive if gentle force and flow. I hope for the viewer that when they sit and contemplate the painting that they sense the turbulence but can focus on the tranquility at its centre. I hope that they feel the optimism in the intention of the circular O for Onwards.


“Onwards” Oil, plaster, acrylic, recycled plastics 50 cm x 50 cm

www.louhamiltonart.com

IG brave_newgirl


Ozone This work is inspired by the report by scientists this year that for the first time, as a direct result of us reducing our use of CFC’s and therefore emitting chlorine into the atmosphere, they have recorded a 20% decrease in the size of the ozone hole. When we first heard about the massive destruction in the ozone layer back in the 1980’s, we were all encouraged to stop using aerosol spray cans. It took a conscious effort at first not to buy them, but as people changed their habits, the manufacturers were also forced to stop using CFC’s in their products. And now, all these years later, from our direct action, we have actually made a difference. The hole is shrinking. We need the ozone layer to protect us from the sun’s harmful rays, to help prevent skin cancer and cataracts, and to stop harmful damage on plant life. It protects us on a cellular level. We don’t often have good news about our impact on the environment so I wanted to celebrate the fact that we can, when we choose to, change our habits and reverse the damage we have caused. This painting is a circle painted in dark indigo and blacks; the ozone around the Earth blocking out the harmful rays. It is, at the same time, a single cell deep in our body benefitting from the closing hole as our protective shield heals. I want my work to reflect the world around us, and our interaction with it. We can feel helpless in the face of climate change and environmental damage but I want this painting to offer the hope that we can and do turn things around when we realize that we have made mistakes and set about making amends. It is a shock to know that modern living has caused such terrible destruction in such a short space of time but the healing of the ozone layer is the signal that we can each choose to shift the way, and what, we consume, and then how we dispose of our excesses. Of course when you look at the painting this message isn’t banging you over the head. The beauty of abstract art is that it lets its ideas drift through you. You can think more deeply about its meaning or you can enjoy the simple circle and the subtle colour changes at face value. The dark colours offer the mystery and magic of our planet but can also be appreciated just for their quiet solidity. You don’t need to think about the ozone hole or environmental damage or climate change, but the message is there should you choose to pick it up. Fundamentally this piece is about hope and healing on a global and cellular level.


“Ozone” Oil, plaster, acrylic 50 cm x 50 cm

www.louhamiltonart.com

IG brave_newgirl

The Discerner Art Publication - Special Lou Hamilton Edition - April 2018  

Lou Hamilton’s circle paintings are part of her “O Show” that she exhibited at The Other Art Fair 2018. An installation made up of individua...

The Discerner Art Publication - Special Lou Hamilton Edition - April 2018  

Lou Hamilton’s circle paintings are part of her “O Show” that she exhibited at The Other Art Fair 2018. An installation made up of individua...