The Beach in Contemporary Painting

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The concept of travelling as the ability to reach remote places and transcend boundaries is often seen as metaphor for post-modern concept of elimination of ontological barriers. Whereas mass tourism and globalisation lead to a connectedness and familiarity, the 19th century fascination and imagination of remote places somehow insists on its remoteness and absence. The paper will explore the trope of the beach in contemporary painting. The common tourist destination will be investigated as a demonstration of a current situation and contestation of Western value system.

The beach is often described as a hybrid space which lies outside the social and ontological restraints, where different orders or value systems collide. Beyond painting, beach settings have been key to some of dramatically-charged narratives that have reached mass audiences, from the18th century readers of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) through to today’s television audiences of programmes such as Shipwreck (UK Channel 4), Lost (USA ABC) or popular films such as The Beach (dir. Danny Boyle, 2000).
The beach somehow epitomizes the postmodern situation

The core of the paper will be an analysis of the work of contemporary US painter Dana Schutz (born 1976), who gained recognition through her paintings of cannibalistic scenes on the beach. As a reflection of the postmodern contestation of self/other duality in her paintings the individuals are not dreading cannibals on the beach, instead they devour themselves.


Keywords: Painting, Beach, Alterity, Otherness
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Christian Mieves

PhD Student, Department of Fine Art, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK

Christian Mieves is a final-year doctoral candidate in Fine Art at Newcastle University (UK). He holds an MFA (Masters in Fine Art) from Newcastle University and a BA in Graphic Design and Illustration from the University of Applied Sciences at Mainz (Germany). His paintings have been exhibited in various galleries in Europe and Mexico. For his PhD work, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, he is working on the depiction of the beach as a site of ‘in-between’ identities in contemporary visual culture in the Western world, focusing on the paintings of Dana Schutz. The beach motif is also the focus of his current artistic practice, with recent exhibitions in Durham, Liverpool or Newcastle upon Tyne in The United Kingdom and also in Mexico DF.

Ref: A09P0705