Dr Christian Mieves

School of Art & Design

Dr Christian Mieves is a painter and cultural theorist. He was born in Germany, where he completed his first degree. His work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in the UK, Germany, Spain and Mexico. He has presented research papers at international conferences and symposia, as well as co-organising the international conferences. Revisiting the Beach (Newcastle University, July 2009) and Working Wonder  (Newcastle University, June 2013).

Research themes in Christian’s work to date have included the beach and other border spaces as metaphors for semantically uncertain fields, the trope of cannibalism, and representations of the exotic and Arcadia. He has published journal articles on the work of Tuymans and Dana Schutz and is currently preparing articles on the concept of ‘wonder’ in visual art, and on Goya’s Saturno devorando a su hijo (1819-1823), as well as a co-authored piece on the carnivalesque in the work of Peter Doig and Chris Ofili.

His current work focuses on the idea of erosion, especially in city environs and with regard to found, arbitrary objects. This has allowed him to explore the conceptual resonances of some of his earlier work on liminal and ambiguous spaces and to develop new trajectories for questioning the limits of representation in painting and related media. He deals with this topic on both a formal ‘painterly’ level (the breaking up of the image surface), and more broadly in the decaying or disappearance of the object as a broader thematic.

Eroding the urban: Erosion of bodies, spaces and materials



In this ERAS project I set out to interrogate the trope of illegibility and erosion in contemporary artistic practice. By looking at painting, photography and sculpture/ architecture the project has explored through a symposium, journal article and my artistic practice the extent to which contemporary art denies ‘a palpable legibility’.


The aims of the project are following:

 1) to explore the relationship of erosion and visibility through contemporary painting and other artistic disciplines. The project deploys the notion of erosion as a conceptual tool in order to explore the shifting and depositing of materials, which will be observed both on a formal ‘painterly’ level (the breaking up of the image surface) and a critical revaluation of memory, visibility and artistic tools.

2) to delineate from an instrumentalist understanding of tools and material, this project explores the impact of a radical restriction and limitation of traditional skill and craftsmanship on the artistic process and to what extent the act of seeing may become irrelevant.           


Objectives of the ERAS project have been to organise a symposium to promote a wider discussion between artist practitioners and theorists about the role of erosion in artistic practice. The symposium took place under the participation of leading international artists including Jane and Louise Wilson (Turner Prize nominees, London), Idris Khan (artist, London) and Maria Chevska (Professor at Ruskin School of Art, Oxford) at The New Art Gallery Walsall, 31 Oct 2014. The outcome will be further disseminated in a special edition of the Journal of Visual Art  Practice with the contribution of international scholars and a journal article.

Summary findings:

In recent years the classical trope of ruins has attracted much attention in art theoretical debates. However, the image of ruin allows only a limited view on the materiality of images and the circulation in heterogeneous networks. The concept of erosion is particular relevant as it offers ways of coming to terms with notions of remediation and circulation of images as a strategy in contemporary artistic practice.

Those findings have been disseminated in the journal article ‘Illegible Paintings: Blocked Vision and Self-reflexitity in Contemporary Painting in recent Works by Idris Kahn and David Schutter’ (submitted, under review) and a special edition of Journal of Visual Art Practice (forthcoming2016).The ERAS project allowed me also to apply for further external funding in order to develop the project further and to disseminate it to a wider international audience (see details below). 


Eroding the urban: Erosion of bodies, spaces and materials.


Research Background:

In recent years the classical trope of ruins has attracted much attention in art theoretical debates (see Dillon, 2013; Hell and Schönle 2010; Huyssen 2006, Edensor 2005; Cadava, 2001, amongst others) and featured in recent exhibitions, most prominently in 2013 in Ruin Lust, Tate London. While ruins ‘retain a suggestive, unstable semantic potential’ (Hell und Schönle 2010: 6), the understanding of the materiality of images, its remediation and the ‘circulation in heterogeneous networks’ is mostly overlooked (Joselit 2013:XIV).

In the field of Visual Culture the tendency to think of pictures in terms of their content often refutes the material qualities of images. This project sets out to explore the extent to which erosion might be a productive term to question regimes of visibility and new materialisms in contemporary art, thus departing from restricted conceptions of perceptibility.

Need for the research:

The focus on erosion allows an exploration of the silenced but palpable entropy of images, which goes beyond the paradigm of visibility/invisibility (see Rugoff 2010,  Dworkin 2013, Fraenkel  2013, Guerin 2015). The concept of erosion is particular relevant in a digital age, as it offers ways of coming to terms with notions of remediation and circulation of images. The project further departs from current notions of visibility and materiality and critically question established conceptual pairings.  This has been the premise of the symposium ‘Erosion and Legibility’ (2014) (with aforementioned contributions by Jane and Louise Wilson, Idris Khan and Maria Chevska) and my current research (e.g. Journal of Visual Art Practice 2010 and Wonder in contemporary Art, (Routledge, forthcoming). The project allows a more in-depth investigation of the concept of erosion, offering opportunities for further research and practice-based collaboration.


This project aims to define what we understand by ‘erosion’ in visual art. More specifically, it seeks to query commonplace characterisations of visibility by exploring in detail new materialist and practice-led approaches. I want to argue that erosion can provide an accurate understanding of these processes. The project sets out to achieve its aims by means of a highly dynamic and interdisciplinary collaboration between international artists and art theorists. Drawing on erosion as both a social function and as having aesthetic formal consequences, the project observes, records and examines the connectedness of population, environment and art by promoting the idea of an intimate implication of those spheres in each other. As part of this investigation, interventions such as ‘preservation’, remaking, retro-recuperations and nostalgia work of several kinds comes under intense scrutiny. The project therefore draws on three theoretical framesets including memory and nostalgia, sociological aspects and art theoretical implication of erosion and the informe.

A further output of the project is the symposium with contribution by internationally renowned artists including Jane and Louise Wilson, Idris Khan and Maria Chevska. The event has taken place at New Art Gallery Walsall, United Kingdom, on 31 Oct 2014 and explores erosion as an artistic strategy in photography, installation and painting. (see link for further information about the symposium http://www.fineartwolverhampton.co.uk/erosionsymposium/ ).


The project has allowed me to radical revaluate artistic tools, to explore painting and other artistic media as a way to stave off erosion. The project also explored the extent to what erosion offers a way to eschew dualistic thinking of visibility/invibility. It further offered me ways of representing processes of eroding and depositing materials and devise ways of dealing with that circulation of materials, evident in the artistic process itself. This has been the case in relation to my own artistic practice or to the work of international artists such as Jane and Louise Wilson or Idris Khan. The findings will be disseminated in following outputs:


2014    Mieves, Christian  (2014) ‘Christian Mieves interviews Dana Schutz’. Turps Banana, Issue14, pp14-19 (ISSN: 1749-3994).

Book Publication:

Mieves Christian and Irene Brown (eds) Wonder in Contemporary Artistic Practice. Routledge Publishers, forthcoming (under contract, Submission date Sept 2015).

Convenor of the international Symposium ‘Erosion and Illegibility’

2014    Erosion and Illegibility of Images, Blocked Vision and Self-Reflexivity in Contemporary Art
One-day Symposium, The New Art Gallery Walsall, UK, 31Oct 2014, 12-5 PM.

Presentations of academic papers at International conferences:

2014    ‘Electric Mud: Digital Art, Bad Painting and the Return of the Artist’. New Materialist Methodologies: Gender, Politics, the Digital, 25-26 Sept 2014, Barcelona.

2014    ‘Illegible Paintings: Blocked Vision and Self-reflexitity in Contemporary Painting in recent Works by Idris Kahn and David Schutter.’ What Images Do’, March 19 - 21, 2014, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen.

The ERAS grant allowed me also to submit following external funding applications which will enable me to develop the project further:

  • Gray Center Mellon Collaborative Fellowships for Arts Practice and Scholarship Visual Arts University of Chicago, in collaboration with David Schutter (Department of Visual Arts, University of Chicago) (submitted, under review).
  • British Academy, Small Grants Application (submitted, under review).
  • Research Investment Phase 2 Investment scheme (RI) University of Wolverhampton  (successful).

Works cited:

Bois, Yves Alain, Rosalind E. Krauss (1997) Formless : a user’s guide. New York Cambridge, Mass.: Zone Books. 

Dillon, Brian (2011) (ed.) Ruins. London and Cambridge, MA: Whitechapel Gallery and MIT.

Geimer, Peter (2012) in Thinking through Painting. Reflexivity and Agency beyond the Canvas. Berlin and New York: Sternberg Press.

Hardt, Michael  and  Antonio Negri (2005) Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. London: Penguin.

Hell und Schönle (2010) (eds) Ruins of Modernity. Durham: Duke University Press.

Huyssen, Andreas (2006) ‘Nostalgia for Ruins’, Grey Room 23, Spring, 6 - 21.

Joselit, David (2013) After Art. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Mouffe, Chantal (1993) The Return of the Political. London and New York: Verso.

Rancière Jacques (2007) The Future Of The Image. London And New York: Verso.