Glen Onwin was born in Edinburgh and studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art from 1966 to 1971. Towards the end of his studies he began to explore the properties of natural substances such as coal and salt. Onwin was interested in the cycles of formation and decay of these substances. He was particularly struck by the discovery of a large salt marsh near Dunbar in March 1973, which inspired his 'Recovery of Dissolved Substances'. In the 1980s Onwin continued to explore the subject natural decay and decomposition, incorporating natural objects and substances such as leaves, sulphur, ash and earth into his work.