The Materials Research Project


A defining characteristic of Graduate Painting is the rich diversity of approaches to painting that includes paint on panels and stretched canvas, indoor and outdoor murals and installation-based painting in which objects, moving images, photography, printmaking and performative art can play a significant role.


This richness is shaped both by the culturally diverse international student cohort, and by the different practices of the four artists who teach on the programme. These artists share a deep fascination with material culture and its relation to artistic transformation – this underlines the pedagogic thrust of the programme.


The Materials Research Project is supported by Onya McCausland, who works under the guidance of Gary Woodley and Jo Volley foregrounding the role of materials within the creative process, so the ‘what’ of a student work is always explored in relation to the ‘how’ of its making.


The Methods Room is a permanent site where students and staff experiment with materials extending their research by shared discovery, discussion and display. Although the Materials Research Project is based in Graduate Painting it is open to all Slade staff and students across the school.


The Material Research Project has three strands:

1. Guided Exploration – Testing new ways of developing the relation between image and material. Different cultural materials and methodologies are explored, supported by a growing materials sample library. Technical Talks and seminars are conducted regularly by Jo, Gary and Onya on a wide range of materials-related subjects such as the properties of industrial paints and varnishes; investigating material as immaterial; supports and surfaces- laminate, veneer, vinyl, acrylic, aluminum.


2. Methods Surgery – Research is conducted to resolve a technical materials-based undertaking or problem that a student or staff member has encountered with a particular artwork.


3. Documentation – The results of research are documented. Information ranges from recipes for paints and grounds, to cataloguing materials and disseminating insights into experiences with materials, including an ongoing Image Library of materials and close up photographic imaging of the painted surface.


Onya McCausland is Honorary Research Assistant in Graduate Painting. Her practice focuses on how physical materials and their histories effect the production and meaning of the art object. She specialises in knowledge of materials and their sources in the British landscape. Onya’s painting practice extends into video, performance and installation. She is currently engaged in research flowing from the preparation of pigments with Jo Volley and scientist Spike Bucklow, HKI Cambridge University.