Onwards by Lou Hamilton


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.

Additional information

Additional information


Original work




Oil, plaster, acrylic, recycled plastics


50cm x 50cm

Ready to hang




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