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The Great Void

Śūnyatā (pronounced Shun-Ya-Ta) is a Buddhism concept that is closely translated to "emptiness". The Śūnyatā s a primary tenet of Buddhism. In Buddism, the realization of Śūnyatā and the state of "being empty" lead to detachment, enlightenment and a heightened sense of freedom.

Śūnyatā & The State of Being Empty

Śūnyatā in Mahayana Buddhism refers to "non-self" and that everything is dependently originated. In this state of emptiness and great void, there are no obstructive tendencies. It is the lack of distraction and removing the self from the mental and physical experiences to the point that we don't add anything and we don't take anything away from the raw data of an experience.

The state of "being empty" opens up room for enlightenment and infinite opportunities to gain knowledge and wisdom. By creating void and emptiness (the negative), we create room for opportunities (the positive). This kind of emptiness does not mean an absolute absence of existence or clutter. The emptiness in this context is an open-ended state of being, with no limit, no time, no beginning and no end. This state of "being empty" leads to freedom from the ego and the attachments that come with the ego. And in Buddhism, attachment is the path to suffering.


"I do not want to make a painting; I want to open up space." Lucio Fontana
Lucio Fontana, 1962. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The concept of Zero is to create void and emptiness to create opportunities. The Zero group was originally founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene and the international ZERO movement which developed post World War II introduced the great void and the concepts of emptiness to the world of art.

This was the time for new beginnings and starting over as people were lost in the aftermath of the WWII. ZERO emphasized this state of new means with the movement of forms and shapes with light and space in a new form of art and expression, breaking free from the traditional ways and concepts.

Artist Lucio Fontana who is known for introducing spetialism was one of the key members of this movement, best known for "Concetto Spaziale" and the concept of hole, cutting through a canvas often with a knife to create void and space.

The cut symbolizes a third dimension that "expands beyond the confining plane of the picture" as Fontana once explained. Fontana changed the history of art by introducing the concept of 3-dimensional art using 2-dimensional means like cuts through canvas and holes to expand the picture plane and create measureless depth. Throughout his work with paintings and sculptures, Fontana celebrated the concept of hole and focused on empty space. Using techniques and simple backgrounds, the holes were the focal point of his art which emphasized the core concepts of emptiness and negative space.

Dallas Museum of Art- Japan Room

Dallas Museum of Art- Japan Room

The Ma

Ma is a Japanese concept that somewhat translates to "pause", the silence between the notes, and the space between, the white (negative) space. Ma is described as an "emptiness full of possibilities".

The core concept of Ma is the negative space that highlights the shape and gives a definition to the positive space (form). It's the void and the pause between the noise and the clutter.

The negative space is an extremely important element of a stimulus. Without the negative space or the pause, the shapes or even words don't make any sense. Our brains and eyes cannot process the whole because we won't be able to recognize one object from the other one next to it. The negative space becomes an art of its own.

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