“Space”, the final frontier

One of Ms. Dunuthin’s canvases.

(This article was written for The Quill’s April Fool’s Day edition, The Swill, and is therefore entirely fictitious in its content.)

The BU art scene has just gone conceptual.

“Space,” the thesis exhibition of Fine Arts student Iva Dunuthin, opened at the Glen P. Sutherland Gallery early last week. Consisting of twenty-one blank canvases, this controversial show has the campus buzzing.

“I felt the need for a more intellectually-stimulating thesis than what’s been offered in previous years,” remarks Dunuthin, whose major is in painting. “My exhibit is a purely conceptual statement.”

Each square canvas stands between three and four feet wide, and other than that, they are all identical. “White is an incredible colour,” Iva continues. “It’s the whole spectrum of visible light combined and reflected at you. So in a way, my canvases could be any and every painting that ever existed. Nothing is everything, you see?”

Dunuthin described to the Swill her current frustration with what she perceives as hypocrisy in mainstream art

“People have been saying for years that art doesn’t need to have meaning, that it doesn’t have to look like anything, or be anything. Yet when they come to a gallery, they still have expectations. My work confronts those expectations, and destroys them.”

Dunuthin claims there are in fact more than 21 canvases in her exposition, ones the viewer must use their imagination to see. “Art shouldn’t be about what you see with your eyes. It’s what makes you feel, makes you imagine. When you look into an empty space, at first you see nothing. Then, if you stare longer, you begin to project your own ideas into the space. You create the art from nothing. You become the art.”

“[At the reception] it was really quiet at the start,” Dunuthin mentioned. “I could just hear everyone thinking. Then people started voicing their opinions. It’ll sure shake up the status-quo,” she adds with a laugh.

Shake the status quo it has. At the opening reception, mixed reactions were flying.

“I feel so enlightened. There was so much to absorb,” raved Tricia, a first-year drawing major. “I couldn’t take it all in.”

“Iva’s paintings were amazing,” relates Trevor, a 1st-year painting major. “They made such a statement. I must’ve stared at one canvas for like, ten minutes. This has definitely impacted the way I’ll work from now on.”

Other reactions to the exposition were less supportive of Iva’s vision.

“It was just stupid,” says Betty, a regular attender of the cities’ two art galleries. “There was simply no point to it. It was… absolutely stupid.”

“It’s not something out of nothing, it’s nothing out of nothing,” ranted another Brandonite.

“Maybe I’m too old to appreciate this kind of stuff,” says Harry, one other local. “To me, art should be a pretty picture. Or at least a good one. That’s that. All this abstract mumbo-jumbo is just a fancy way of saying ‘I can’t paint.’”

Iva is not concerned about people’s perception of herself as an artist, nor is she surprised by the reaction.

“This is high art. Usually, the educated and elite are the only ones able to comprehend it. I didn’t expect everyone to embrace my work.” She adds, “I hope I can challenge them to stretch their ideas about what art really is. And by the way, I CAN paint.”

Iva can also philosophize, too.

“My work speaks of the deepest truths I’ve come to discover about life, the universe, and well, everything. You realize nothing really exists objectively in itself. There’s no meaning or purpose in anything. My canvases literally illustrate this cold, universal truth.”

Dunuthin adds her exhibit is, “like the art equivalent of John Cage’s ‘4’33’”. She admits her idea has already been conceptualized by modern artists such as Andy Warhol and Gianni Motti. “But no one from BU has ever done it before,” she argues.

Some of Iva’s classmates have raised concerns over whether Iva has put enough work into her thesis, or if her artworks even qualify as ‘paintings.’ “My thesis focuses on the hypothetical, not the technical. I recently read about artist Tom Friedman who stared for five years at his invisible artwork before showing it. There’s just as much thinking or more put into that painting than any other.”

Dunuthin asserted, “It was a lot of work you know. I had to triple prime all those canvases with gesso, to make them extra white. There couldn’t be a spot or slightest mark. That took some time.”

Iva has yet to receive a grade from professors on her thesis.

Republished from The Swill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 27,  April 2, 2013.