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Painting ochre pigment on canvas
Saltburn 54°34 07.37 N 0°57 42.87 W / No.3, Onya McCausland, 2019, pigment in oil on canvas

©the artist

Square painting of ochre pigment on canvas
54°34 07.37 N 0°57 42.87 W, Onya McCausland, 2022, emulsion paint on wall

Photo credit: Jussi Tiainen. Landscapes of the Future, Helsinki Contemporary 2020. Artwork ©the artist

Painting of dark umber coloured pigment, laid out in a square, brush strokes visible.
3. 53°44 07.95  N 2°12 10.84 W , Onya McCausland, 2022, No.2 Earth pigment in water based emulsion and oil on canvas, 45 cm x 40 cm

©the artist

54°34 07.37 N 0°57 42.87 W. 12 meter wall installation and 91 1L tins of Saltburn Ochre wall emulsion paint show in Chemical City
54°34 07.37 N 0°57 42.87 W. 12 meter wall installation and 91 1L tins of Saltburn Ochre wall emulsion paint, Onya McCausland

©the artist

54°34 07.37 N 0°57 42.87 W  Saltburn Ochre wall emulsion paint show in Embrace at Akureyri Art Museum, Iceland
54°34 07.37 N 0°57 42.87 W,  Saltburn Ochre wall emulsion paint, Onya McCausland, 2022

in Embrace, Akureyri Art Museum, Iceland. Curated by Mika Hannula

©the artist

Tan y Garn, mine water waste pigment based wall emulsion on wall UCL Cloisters 2018
Tan y Garn, mine water waste pigment based wall emulsion on wall UCL Cloisters, Onya McCausland, 2018

©the artist

Photograph of plaque mounted on a brick pedestal, behind a wire fence near pit.
Plaque, Onya McCausland

©the artist

Painted patio wall with Six Bells red, man sitting on deck chair, Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent, South Wales
Painted patio with Six Bells red, Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent, South Wales, 2021

©the artist

Annex of Aberbeeg Hospital for patient’s radio station. Six Bells burnt and Six Bells Raw Pinewood slats painted with bio resin wood paint. Paint made in collaboration with Nick Dubbles.
Annex of Aberbeeg Hospital for patient’s radio station. Six Bells burnt and Six Bells Raw Pinewood slats painted with bio resin wood paint. Paint made in collaboration with Nick Dubbles., Onya McCausland, 2023

©the artist

Slade School of Fine Art
University College London
Gower Street


McCausland’s paintings develop contexts of landscape, abstraction and monochrome painting which are explored together to address environmental contexts and concerns. In this, McCausland’s practice develops an environmentalism that addresses the materials and materiality of how painting and paint relates to the Earth (as being made from chemical elements and processes) and human cultures, as well as traditions of art that relate to specific sites and places.

My research combines studio works, wall installations, collaborative socially focused practice and paint making to develop critical perspectives that examine and re-imagine wastes and pollution as culturally significant material. My paintings develop contexts of landscape, abstraction and monochrome painting which are explored together to address environmental contexts and concerns, and specifically environments and sites in which the coal industry has left its mark and made landscapes toxic or dangerous through leaving the remains of waste in the land. My use of ochre has other references, including the earliest known use of ochre pigment by humans in cave painting, emphasising the relation of materials, community, site and environment. My paintings are concerned with the discovery of new, sustainable sources for material for colour to address ways of seeing within the confines and concepts of landscape painting. The work proposes new ways of perceiving and conceiving of landscapes through materiality of place, and the overlap and conflation of human and geological time frames. Traditional tropes of landscape painting are exploited to attend to surface, depth and perspectival orientations – views from above and on the ground – and to evoke a sense of place and displacement, distance and proximity. This play on surface and perspective is further extended through works that includes aerial photographs of mining sites where ochre is visible as an element.

McCausland studied painting at Falmouth School of Art, and the Slade School of Fine Art, where she returned to complete a PhD between 2014-17. In 1995 she was an external recipient of the Slade's Boise Travel Scholarship. In 2018 she was awarded a three year Post Doctoral Early Career Fellowship from the Leverhulme Foundation. During this time established Turing Landscape CIC a community Interest company making paint from waste iron residues forming from polluting mine waters in the South Wales village of Six Bells. In 2022 the company received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund Wales to establish an arts and educational programme alongside paint making. In 2020 she established a research and reading group called Environment, Ecology, Sustainability, and was appointed Head of Undergraduate Painting in at the Slade School of Fine Art in 2022.

She manages a studio practice in London, exhibiting works and developing art projects internationally. Recent exhibitions have been held at Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art, Norrtälje Konsthall, Sweden, Akureyri Museum, Iceland and earlier projects held at Camden Arts Centre London, Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall, Kettle’s Yard Cambridge and the Delfina Foundation in London. She has received funding from the AHRC, Leverhulme Foundation, Arts Council, British Council among others.

Research Summary

My research involves working with different kinds of raw materials as a means to examine the medium and subject of painting as a social and conceptual tool. The materials I work with hold complex histories - often associated with distinct geographical regions and land, such as historic and contemporary extractive mining practices – that underpin and shape the social, economic and physical make-up of the landscapes they are part of. Specific interests centre around analysing the medium of paint in order to dismantle the physicality of colour and extract and activate seams of content embedded in its structure. The practice of painting forms an embodied tacit method of image making, activating colours’ potentialities through a process of reforming and re-framing paint as an educational tool.

Knowledge underpinning the research coalesces through collaborative, cross-disciplinary methods, often involving, geologists, mining engineers, former mine workers, environmentalists and chemists, and with government agencies such as the UK Coal Authority and the Environment agency. This research has resulted in the polluting legacies of former (and current) coal mines being diverted for use as economically viable pigment materials being repurposed for use in the manufacture of new sustainable, environmentally responsible paints. A Community Interest Company called Turning Landscape CIC is now an established organisation, working with and in the community and landscape of the former mining village of Six Bells, Blaenau Gwent, South Wales in the UK. I design and co-direct a Heritage Lottery funded programme of events, talks and educational activities that are made accessible and free to local publics, including school children, residents at the local low and medium secure hospital. I work with a project co-ordinator to manage a small team of employees and volunteers who run the day to day project, including developing a volunteer programme for retired, un/under employed people.

Teaching Summary

I became a full time lecturer in 2021 teaching on the Undergraduate fine art programme. In 2022 I took the lead role of running the Painting area of the Undergraduate BA/BFA degree programmes where I currently work. In 2018 I was head of Painting at Winchester School of Art for a brief period before being awarded a three year Leverhulme Post Doctoral Fellowship between 2018 - 2021.

In 2020 I established and continue to run a research site and visual reading group on Art and Ecology, which has its focus on visual material that addresses the climate emergency through both historical and contemporary art practice.


Aerial Landscapes
2023 - Flat Time House

Aerial Landscapes is the culmination of more than four years of individual and collaborative work by four researchers: two artists, Nicky Bird and Onya McCausland, and two art historians, Katherine Jackson and Joy Sleeman. Their collaboration began with synergies between research interests, developed through conversations and shared dialogues, explorations in the archive of Flat Time House and on the ground in the landscape. It was energised by McCausland’s research into painting and coal mine waste, catalysed by a symposium at University College London, and continued in a one-day event, Aerial Landscapes, at Flat Time House on 19 October 2019 in the kitchen of Flat Time House: the room John Latham called the Body-Event.

Aerial Landscapes finally manifested in a publication with contributions by the four researchers, designed by Robert Mead, and with an introduction by Gareth Bell-Jones, launched at Flat Time House on 30 November 2023.

This display accompanies the launch of the book, exploring and reflecting on the process of research, including art works and and archive materials selected by the contributing artists and art historians from their own work and from the John Latham Archive and John Latham Collection at Flat Time House. The display was facilitated and curated by Gareth Bell-Jones and Mary Vettise at Flat Time House.

Lines of Empathy
2023 - Close Ltd, Taunton, Somerset

The exhibition.. explores of the process of mark-making while drawing on paper, and empathy as the act of reaching out into someone else’s experience. The invited artists have been asked to talk in detail about their artwork on paper, with questions related to their choice of paper, media and processes used, their relationship with the body and the senses; they have also contributed their thoughts on the impact that the pandemic has had on their individual practices. The interview project has been informed by an interest in mirror neurons and empathy; the artworks have been considered as ‘vehicles’ for experiences which the viewers might feel a connection to.

Deep Horizons
2023 - Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art

Deep Horizons starts with the topic of excavation and presents sculpture, drawing, painting, installation, ceramics, photography and moving image from the last 90 years. Developed through a series of conversations, the exhibition explores layers of themes, including history and time, geology and land, memory and dreams and the politics of how we record and understand the past.

The exhibition presents two very different collections of modern and contemporary art: the Middlesbrough Collection, cared for by MIMA, and the David and Indrė Roberts Collection, managed by The Roberts Institute of Art. Seen together, they present connected and contrasting artworks in new combinations to allow fresh readings. A number of the pieces displayed have not been seen in a public gallery.

Seven curatorial collaborators have shaped the exhibition’s themes and with MIMA and Roberts Institute of Art curators. Each coming from a different field of knowledge, their perspectives and interests have opened viewpoints on excavation and new readings of artworks. The curatorial collaborators are: broadcaster and actor Sir Tony Robinson, artists Liliane Lijn and Fiona Crisp, botanist Dr Greg Kenicer, Professor of Physics Chamkaur Ghag, writer and academic Dr Julietta Singh and former Tees Bay Pilot Geoff Taylor.

Artists’ work on show includes Bernd and Hilla Becher, Chiara Camoni, Ellen Gallagher, Theaster Gates, Emily Hesse, Lonnie Holley, Onya McCausland, Ana Mendieta, Paula Rego and John Stezaker.

Lines of Empathy
2023 - Patrick Hiede Contemporary

Lines of Empathy is a group show bringing together hand-drawn work on paper by 17 mid-career and established artists working in Britain today. The artworks in the exhibition are the subject of a new artist’s book, bearing the same title of the show, produced by the Italian, London-based, artist Giulia Ricci between 2020 and 2022. Lines of Empathy is a synthesis of the project’s main themes: on one hand the exploration of the process of mark-making while drawing on paper by hand, on the other, empathy as the act of reaching out into someone else’s experience. The invited artists have been asked to talk in detail about their chosen artwork on paper, with questions related to their choice of paper, media and processes used, their relationship with the body and the senses; they have also contributed their thoughts on the impact that the pandemic has had on their individual practices.

Chemical City
2021 - Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art

Chemical City is a large thematic exhibition on the legacies of chemicals production in the Tees Valley. Starting with a focus on plastics manufacturing in the area, the exhibition travels through broader social, economic, material and ecological themes. It charts relationships between early experiments with synthetic fibres and dyes and contemporary innovations in more sustainable fashion through historical materials and contemporary design products. Artists’ painting, sculpture and film trace the impacts of twentieth century manufacturing on people and places.

Artworks by Annie O’Donnell, Onya McCausland and Katarina Zdjelar trace associations and connections with globalised manufacture. Through painting, sculpture and film, each explores a new imaginative realm, whether relating to memory, the impact of conflict on manufacture and artistic activity, or the re-purposing of industrial waste.

2021 - Norrtälje konsthall, Sweden

The exhibition Embrace focuses on the internal logic of the painterly acts that are situated, committed and embedded. It is an exhibition in which all parts come together with the aim of creating and generating sites and situations for paintings to not only be but to become – to breath in, and to breath out, with the viewers and the site.

The aim is to get away from the idea of distanced neutrality and start moving towards participatory analog experience – the demanding but pleasurable road from detachment to proximity, from absence to engagement.

Curator: Mika Hannula.

Extraction: Loss and Restoration
2021 - Groundwork Gallery, Kings Lynn, UK

Featuring works by Darren Almond, Onya McCausland, Chris Drury, Shaun Fraser, Kaitlin Ferguson, Anthony Powis, Frankie Turk, Sara Grisewood, Kathryn Maguire, Aindreas Scholz. Artists working on the theme of “extraction” have been selected out of an outstanding range of applicants from around the world. Five of them will spend a period in residence at GroundWork Gallery and its new consortium over the summer.
Onya McCausland’s paintings show how creative traces can be rescued from a former mining landscape. Six Bells in south-east Wales was the site for one of the most severe mining disasters in 1960, when an explosion killed 45 men. Onya’s paintings gently provide a reminder, that what is enduring about this place, is about the earth and environment. She uses pigments made from grinding the earth once displaced by an extractive industry. Each painting is titled by its location name or grid reference and thus records a very particular part of the landscape. She has also been instrumental in establishing the manufacture of paint for art and for households as a thriving enterprise at Six Bells.

Working On It
2020 - Helsinki Contemporary

A group exhibition bringing together ten international contemporary artists. The exhibition asks, what is the role and potential of the artist and contemporary art in our time, defined by big changes. It seeks to bring beauty and solace – a shared and interactive experientiality to the midst of central questions.

Europe After The Rain
2019 - Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall, UK

In 2019 I was invited to curate a large group exhibition at Newlyn Art Gallery to run alongside my solo-show at The Exchange, Penzance.

Max Ernst’s painting ‘Europe After The Rain II’ depicts a haunting future landscape where things seemed to have evolved, or possibly devolved, into a new strange state. The painting was made in 1942 during the height of the Second World War and yet the painting is ambiguous - it doesn’t depict scenes of destruction but portrays a landscape that might come after. 

‘Europe After The Rain’ was a group exhibition that I curated for Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall and features the work of 13 contemporary living artists and one surrealist masterpiece. With permission from the artist’s estate, Max Ernst’s small oil painting was reproduced for the exhibition as a 7-meter wallpaper print that filled one end-wall of the main gallery space. The group exhibition uses Ernst’s surreal painting as both a starting point and a backdrop for a show that imagines future landscapes that have evolved after the world has changed. The exhibition creates a surreal and imaginary universe that is extrapolated out from the current world around us. The current tensions between humans and other species or landscapes are here amplified to create an unnerving alien terrain. Some of the works by living artists are themselves dreams of strange futures - such as Larry Achiampong’s video: ‘Relic’ that depicts the relics of English landscape and culture as seen from a distant post-colonial future or Nick Laessing’s sculpture/machines that offer utopian living solutions for a world in collapse (I am also primary supervisor for Nick’s PhD research project at the Slade). Other works in the show look at normal things from our current world - like Karin Bos’ uncanny paintings of old caravans rusting in scrubland, or Melanie Manchot’s video of an explosion shaking a mountain as it is cleared from avalanches. When framed, however, within the wider context of the exhibition even these depictions of ‘normal’ things from our current world become artefacts within a strange collective dream – a dream of imagined futures to come.

Landscapes of the Future
2018 - Helsinki Contemporary, Helsinki Finland

Landscapes of the Future Helsinki Contemporary Group show curated by Beaconsfield Art Works including David Burrows, Anna Bunting-Branch, , BAW (aka David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin) in collaboration with Bruce Gilbert, Onya McCausland, Kieth Piper, Ioana Marinescu and Philip Thompson.

2018 - Anima Mundi Gallery, Cornwall UK

Solo presentation of artworks based on research into contemporary landscape. Specific waste materials are generated in the landscape as a result of the end of coal mining. The materials are used here as a conduit to explore interconnected ideas surrounding the condition of the contemporary landscape.

Five Colours Five Landscapes
2018 - UCL

Exhibition of wall paintings installed throughout UCL's main cloister that sees the production of ochre material resulting from mine water treatment brought into use as pigment for paint for the very first time. The exhibition is the result of innovative collaborative research between Onya McCausland, UCL and the Coal Authority.

Horizon: Against Nature
2017 - Instituto Cervantes, New Delhi

2016 - Griffin Gallery London

The Edge of Printing
2016 - Royal Academy

Celebrating the developments within contemporary printmaking practice including etchings, monoprints, lithographs, woodblocks, silkscreens and three-dimensional digital prints, this collection explores the way in which traditional techniques have evolved and examines some of the new technologies which are offering artists ever-changing methods of producing work.

Charcoal Works
2016 - Hardwick Gallery, University of Gloucestershire

harcoal Works is an exhibition of commissioned artworks that have been produced with the charcoaled remains of the iconic oak sculpture ‘Place’, that stood on the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail for 29 years.
In October 2015 a charcoal ‘clamp’ was built on the same location in the forest where the oak sculpture had stood. For three days and two nights, beneath a huge earth covered mound, an intense heat steamed, smoked and slowly carbonised the wood.
The exhibition at Hardwick Gallery brings the recycling of a single artwork into multiple elements full circle, and Onya McCausland has invited 16 artists to produce new work from the charcoal according to their diverse practices. The exhibition includes works by Edward Allington, Sophie Bouvier Auslander, Jess Bryant, Marcin Gawin & Malgorzata Lucyna Zajac, Joy Gregory, Tess Jaray, James Keith, Sam Llewellyn- Jones, Lisa Milroy, Onya McCausland, Jayne Parker, Lotte Scott, Joy Sleeman, Andrew Stonyer, Kay Tabernacle and Jo Volley.

Charcoal Measure
2015 - Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England

En Plein Air
2015 - Mecklenburg Square

2014 - Fold Gallery , London, UK

Visual Thinking
2014 - Camden Arts Centre, London, UK

Turning Landscape into Colour investigates the origins of earth pigments - ochres - in the landscape and considers their significance as contemporary cultural materials. This project will explore the variations between different colours collected from separate sites across the mid Pennines. Onya McCausland has invited researchers from different disciplines and institutions to contribute. McCausland will bring the collected earths to the Artists' Studio and begin processing the raw material, turning it into ochre pigment and finally paint.

The Edge of Painting
2013 - Piper Gallery

The Edge of Painting, an exhibition curated by Tess Jaray.

The Edge of Painting brings together 12 artists who all work at the margins of painting. A variety of mediums are explored. Painting - in the traditional sense of applying paint to a surface - has not been used in any of the exhibited works. Instead we encounter sculpture, print, film, metalwork, and digital media - an extensive array of works that show ‘painting’ in its contemporary forms, marking how far painting has come, and celebrating how it continues to transform.

John Moores Painting Prize.
2012 - Walker Gallery Liverpool.

White Earth
2011 - St.Peter's Church Kettle's Yard

Installation of paintings and film

51°43 33.56 N 3°07 58.63 W
- Karsten Schubert Gallery London

Extraction: Loss and Restoration
- Groundwork Gallery

Featuring works by Darren Almond, Onya McCausland, Chris Drury, Shaun Fraser, Kaitlin Ferguson, Anthony Powis, Frankie Turk, Sara Grisewood, Kathryn Maguire, Aindreas Scholz.
GroundWork Gallery’s Extraction programme began in 2021 in association with EXTRACTION: Art on the Edge of the Abyss which linked to a multimedia, multi-venue, cross-border art intervention originating in the USA. The whole initiative, involved hundreds of artists and galleries. All seek to provoke societal change by exposing and interrogating the negative social and environmental consequences of industrialized natural resource extraction.


Wastiary A bestiary of waste
- Book , UCL Press 2023/07/03

Aerial Landscapes
- Book , Flat Time House , London , edited by McCausland O,Sleeman J,Bird N,Jackson K 2023/11/30

Lines of Empathy
- Book , Lines of Empathy Press , London , edited by Ricci G 2022/01/01

Material Agency and Meaning - Practicing Landscape: Landscapes of Energy and Extraction
- Conference Presentation 2021/10/29

Sustainability Art Practice for a Sustainable World
- Conference Presentation 2021/07/16

Aerial Landscapes
- Conference Presentation 2020/10/19

Six Bells Red
- Artefact 2020/12/11

From Coal Mine Waste to Landscape Painting
- Conference Presentation 2020/02/13

From Pigments to Solar Power
- Book (Paper, Pigment, Ink) , Slade Press , London 2018/04/01

Five Colours Five Landscapes
- Conference Presentation 2018/05/11

Turning Landscape Into Colour
- Thesis/Dissertation 2017/12/28

Deep Material Encounters; a symposium in a cave
- Conference Presentation 2016/04/15

Turning Landscape into Colour
- Book , Slade Press , UK 2013/01/01