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Beyond Paint | Gesture and Materiality in Post-War European Art

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Admission free | Advance booking required


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All of our Gallery buildings are closed until further notice in line with Scottish Government restrictions.

The works displayed in this room reflect a range of approaches that emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War. Vigorous and varied new forms of artistic expression blossomed in a Europe that sought to replace the society and the values that had led to the horrors of war. A key development was the rejection of the rationalism that had dominated the arts before the war. Instead, these artists stressed the importance of improvisation, gesture and materiality in artistic practice.

Pierre Soulages' work is characterised by his distinct use of black paint. He uses instruments, such as palette knives, spoons and rakes,  to create complex, gestural surface effects. Nicolas De Staël and Jean Paul Riopelle also used palette knives to apply paint. Riopelle used large quantities of paint, applied to the canvas in anexpressive manner. De Staël painted abstract works characterised by thickly applied blocks of saturated colour.

Some artists turned to unconventional materials. In the mid-1950s, Antoni Tàpies developed a technique where he mixed oil paints with earth, dust or marble powder, as well as found objects. Using this technique he created works which are intensely textured and tactile. Alberto Burri’s work owes as much to the tradition of collage and mixed media as painting. The artist used cheap materials such as burlap and sacking, which he tore and sewed together, giving his work a strong visceral appeal. Jean Dubuffet also combined unusual materials, such as dirt, plaster and gravel with thick oil paint that allowed him to create a paste into which he could make physical marks, such as scratches and slash marks, in a kind of graffiti - a technique that exemplifies the artist’s ‘anti-cultural’ approach.

Image: Jean-Paul Riopelle, Ventoux1958 © SODRAC, Montreal and DACS, London 2016.

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Display accessibility

  • Wheelchair access


Gallery facilities

A full accessibility guide is available at www.accessibilityguides.org for Modern One and Modern Two.

Parking for visitors is available at both Modern One and Modern Two. A donation is requested of £3 for up to 4 hours and £6 for 4-8 hours. Our payment meters have contactless capability.

  • Wheelchair access
  • Disabled parking
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Getting here

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is located 15 minutes’ walk from Princes Street. It includes two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, set in a beautiful sculpture park.

In addition to the transport options below there are bike racks at each site and Just Eat Cycle Hire stations nearby.

  • <b>Closed until further notice</b>
  • <b>Closed until further notice</b>
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR

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We will be limiting the number of visitors in each gallery at any one time. To manage this we've instituted a free, timed ticketing system for both venues.

Admission is free, but tickets must be booked in advance.

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