Dr. Onya McCausland is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. This research involves collaborating with the Coal Authority - a non-departmental public body of the UK government - to generate new uses for mine water waste ‘ochres’ as usable coloured pigment for paint. The research repositions ‘waste’ ochre as significant cultural material that can be used to change perceptions of the ‘post-industrial’ landscape sites they belong to.
In 2014, between 4 and 5 thousand tones of ochre were being sent to landfill every year because an economically viable use could not be found and landfill was the cheapest option. By reusing this otherwise redundant material in her work McCausland has demonstrated the uniqueness and cultural value of these colours and their landscape contexts.
The Landscape is read through physical (and digital) interactions with each Place, the coloured earth minerals they form have unique characteristics that are expressed through various physical processes. The work draws on the history of landart, minimalist and post-minimalist aesthetics as well as using analytical techniques to explore colour as material and the proximities between ground and surface, where surface is used to join geographic, geological and painterly realms.
In collaboration with the Coal Authority, McCausland is working to designate five selected Mine Water Treatment Schemes as public spaces that perform the production of ochre, producing high-quality pigment for paint while generating an income for the local economy.