EARTH In The Field

By Roisin O’Sullivan, ONCA Volunteer.

As a disoriented History of Art Graduate, looking for a path and a purpose, my stumbling upon the bright and friendly world of ONCA has been significant in helping me appreciate the impact Art can have on our social and cultural climate. I have been fortunate to join ONCA with the opening of Chris Drury’s EARTH exhibition, a subtle and powerful display that succinctly captures the overarching themes of his work with soil and bacteria whilst opening up our present space by bringing the diversity of his experiences and the places he has visited to us in a very tangible way; seen especially for example, with his collection of bottled soils from across the world. Volunteering has shown me the widespread significance of such an exhibition as people from a range of different disciplines, backgrounds and interests have come and delighted in his work. The exhibition is given further depth with Daro Montag’s eerie and poignant display of charred wooden animals below stairs that he burnt after buying in charity shops – a creative and innovative way of dealing with an important environmental issue. EARTH exhibition transforms and inspires!


EARTH runs from 11th March – 3rd April 2016
Exhibition Opening Times: Wednesday – Friday 12-7pm
Saturday & Sunday 11-6pm

Good Friday 12-6pm

For more information on how to volunteer at ONCA click here!

Trash or Treasure

Plastic Free Your Life!

As part of Trash or Treasure? last month – a project exploring the science and art of plastic waste – we hosted a DIY cosmetics workshop with lifestyle tips on how to go plastic free. Stephanie Wright – ONCA’s resident marine biologist – examined plastic microbeads under the microscope whilst we made our own plastic free honey scrub, coffee body scrub and toothpaste! So here we have the recipes for you to make your own at home – it’s easy, fun and much cheaper!

Homemade Mint Toothpaste


  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 10 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
  • sweetener (such as Xylitol) to taste


  • Melt the coconut oil on a low heat
  • Once melted, remove from heat and stir in baking soda
  • Blend sweetener into fine powder so that it easily dissolves, add to taste
  • Stir in Peppermint oil
  • Once the mixture has solidified give it a good stir, and it’s ready to use!


Coffee Body Scrub


  • 1 cup ground coffee (can be used coffee grounds)
  • 1 cup sugar or salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  • Melt coconut oil and allow it to cool but not solidify
  • Mix all ingredients together and store in airtight container or mason jar
  • Use 1-2 times a week – the coffee and sugar will exfoliate your skin and the coconut oil will leave your skin soft and moisturised


Honey Sugar Scrub


  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (cane or brown both work well)


  • Blend in a bowl
  • Apply
  • Rinse very throughly as it might get a bit sticky!
Guest blog

TRASH OR TREASURE? – A Peripheral View by Philip Cole

I was delighted to have the opportunity to show some new and recent work at ONCA, and to take part in some of the workshops and activities that took place during the week of Brighton Science Festival. The week was given the catchy title of ‘Trash or Treasure’: a week of enquiry into the use and misuse of plastic.

A couple of months earlier, I had met up with Persephone and Carrina from ONCA at my studio at Phoenix Brighton. We discussed whether or not I might be able to get involved in the week of activities – I have had a science background and have an ongoing interest in polymers. Naturally we also discussed my artistic practice and in particular my choice of material for painting – the smell of fresh resin in my studio was fairly noticeable and so an obvious area for comment and discussion. Experimental by nature, I have tended to place an emphasis on the possibilities inherent in a material. Predominantly, I have used polystyrene resins and other oil based derivatives. The choice of material has always been an issue that has exercised me, being conscious that it is the by-product of a very controversial and limited resource – crude oil. My perspective for the time being is that this precious liquid should be used carefully and wisely. Unfortunately, the opposite is often the case as polystyrene and other polymers are used for packaging and cheap throwaway goods.

Both Persephone and Carrina thought that my considered use of virgin plastic, whilst controversial, would provide an interesting angle to the ongoing debate about the use of plastic during ‘Trash or Treasure’. I too, hoped that this would be the case and also that my paintings might stimulate public interest in their own right. We agreed that I would exhibit some of my work at ONCA during the science festival and lead a workshop in the gallery on one of the days during half term.

I have several reasons for choosing to use plastic for my work, a material that seems appropriate for celebrating and reflecting the time period that we are currently living in – the ‘Plastic Age’. A few years ago I bought a secondhand record called Debut from a boot sale. It had a gatefold sleeve that had become unstuck to reveal the CMYK shapes along the inside glued tab. The colours, shapes and patterns were simple but compelling. Around the same time I started collecting the tabs from cereal boxes. I have always had a tendency to inspect and read the box whilst eating breakfast and had noticed these ‘peripherals’ before. They had always delighted me visually and like anything that is collected and observed regularly, small differences are soon observed and enjoyed…

… but they are remnants of the printing process, marginal, partially obscured or totally hidden by glued tabs. They seem to me to be perfect hard edged landscapes in their own right and they continue to be a source of inspiration. The paintings exhibited at ONCA were made from coloured polyester – placed, poured and painted onto board. They may celebrate these hard edged landscapes, they may comment on our use and misuse of plastic in our packaging. Whilst the paintings may have a subject matter, they become more than a painted representation, a copy or an illusion: the pieces are constructed and derived from a particular approach and a technique.

The work may be characterised by process: it may raise questions about the act of painting and making and the choice of subject matter, as well as the finished piece itself. I hope to produce something that becomes more than the sum of its parts and that might edge the viewer into a new place. The paintings have a very flat, smooth surface which may allude to photographic or print production processes. They directly contrast the notion of a hand crafted or painterly piece of work, with evidence of the artist’s handiwork almost absent.

It was great to meet and exhibit with Nick Sayers whose recycled Spheres and Zero Waste sculpture were also featured in the gallery. I also took part in the beach clean on the Saturday, an event that drew quite a crowd of people all keen to gather up plastic waste as part of the line transect study of a small section of Brighton beach. Whilst it was a cold and windy day, it was a positively invigorating experience.

The team at ONCA were very helpful, enthusiastic and accommodating and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the Gallery and hub. My involvement in Trash or Treasure has also meant that I have re-evaluated my own use of plastic materials and re-thought how I might cut down and re–use the small but still significant waste that I produce.

Philip Cole

March 2016




Sorting through our beach plastic in the gallery



Trash to Treasure: octopus made by Phil and workshop participants out of plastic waste we cleaned from Brighton beach


360/ Panoramic photo of ONCA by Nick Sayers

Other photos by Philip Cole