Beyond Painting
Level 4: Room 2, The Mori Gallery
Tate Modern: Display
Open every day

The works in this room all explore ideas of painting beyond the conventional technique of applying paint by brush to canvas.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a growing number of artists no longer saw representation as the foremost function of painting. Instead they began to investigate the various constituent elements that make up a painting, such as the brushstroke or painterly mark, support structure, colour, form, surface and pictorial space. The cubists, in particular, focused on the relationship between the latter two by showing objects from multiple angles. Their experiments with collage led them, in turn, to add three-dimensional elements to the flat surface of the canvas, blurring the boundary between painting and sculpture. Other artists associated with constructivism and dada, such as Iwan Puni and Kurt Schwitters, also used collage techniques to explore the painting not simply as a representation of objects, but as an object itself.

Such concerns gained a new importance for young American and European artists in the late 1950s and 1960s. Rejecting the critical mythology surrounding painters such as Jackson Pollock, which maintained that every painterly gesture should communicate ‘meaning’, they sought to dissect the way in which such gestures functioned in the first instance. To do so, they began to cut and slash the canvas, shoot at it, parcel it up or do away with it altogether. As a result they opened up a great many new possibilities for painting as an artistic practice which extended far beyond the traditional definition of the medium.

Curated by Achim Borchardt-Hume.