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

10am-5pm daily

Admission free | Advance booking required


Modern One and our exhibition NOW | Katie Paterson are open. Booking is required and can be made up to two weeks in advance. Modern Two will reopen on Saturday 24 October.

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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.

Event accessibility

Display accessibility

  • Wheelchair access


Gallery facilities

The Changing Places toilet is located in the rear car park of Modern One with accessible parking spaces located nearby. The unit is open 10am-5pm, every day, a key is not required.

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

  • Wheelchair access
  • Changing places toilet
  • Public toilets
  • Disabled parking
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Bike rack
  • Parking

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.

75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR
Modern One 10am-5pm daily
Modern Two Reopening on Saturday 24 October

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Book your visit to Modern One

Book your visit to Modern One

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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Our Friends

Friends of the Galleries get free unlimited entry to all exhibitions, and enjoy a wide range of exclusive benefits including early exhibition access, special events and 10% discount in our cafes.

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