The Beach in Contemporary Painting
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
PhD Student, Department of Fine Art, Newcastle University, United Kingdom