All-at-Onceness

I use the term “all-at-onceness” to describe a quality I am always trying to capture in painting. All-at-onceness is related to the experience of seeing something—really seeing it—in the present moment, whole, unmediated and without deliberation. The idea is inherently paradoxical: an experience so completely in present time that it is outside of time. This is what I am trying to produce, images so immediate that they operate outside of time.

This demands a concentrated working process. In my case, I have to work very rapidly if I am to sustain a state of altered awareness (or trance as I usually think of it) where I have no experience of time. This is like a meditation practice, though more active.

The approach is related to “alla prima” painting, where oil painters apply wet paint over wet paint to complete a painting in a single session. Alla prima painting was central to the practice of the Impressionists, especially Monet, who sought to capture the qualities of light operating at a particular time of day. For me it reached one of its highest expressions in the work of van Gogh, who painted two masterpieces a day during the last period of his life, working in a state of heightened concentration and perception that is difficult for me to imagine.

All-at-onceness is also, I imagine, related to Asian practices of calligraphy and Sumi painting, where the painter hones the instruments of body and mind to allow essence (or, perhaps, absence) to be transmitted unimpeded.

My primary influence was Leo Marchutz, who dedicated himself to extending the discoveries of Cezanne’s late work, especially the watercolors. Leo was able to capture with a few gestures an entire world, spiritual and outside of time, illuminated by an inner light. I have neither his temperament nor his restraint, but his work seeded in me a faith that painting could still serve a spiritual function for both painter and viewer.

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