Gabryel Harrison: From Utter Darkness, Light Always Comes

All new life begins in darkness. The seed of human potential, an embryonic idea, winged energy cocooned and waiting for flight, light itself. 
This piece began its life as raw canvas submerged in the North Arm of the Fraser River for the duration of seven cycles of the tides. Ritual purification. Within this time, on August 28-2007, the world experienced a total lunar eclipse, visible to all on the Pacific coast.
 It was my intention with this piece to experiment with the sedimentary deposits left from its exposure to silt and salt, ocean water and fresh. To work with the stains and traces of aquatic life from this tidal estuary, as well as the more ephemeral elements of sunlight and dusk, early morning mist, midnight rain and starlight, swallows flight, coyote’s howl as they came at twilight to drink. It was the last piece of canvas on a roll that once held hundreds of feet; many paintings, years of my life. I wanted this last fragment to be the creation of something new, something unborn in me. It was a summer of emergence from a place of cocoon into the blinding light of love. 
And so love reigned and the canvas languished. Some months later I returned to the project and worked its surface from the trusted darkness of my intuition, painting from a new perspective. We are all heavenly bodies influencing one another. In this way, the full moon rose from its beginnings in the dark waters of the river to swim into sight from the equally dark waters of my unconscious. 
It went out into the world. Found a home. Came back. In its new incarnation, the piece once known as Acheron Moon has been reborn. I have reworked the painting, adding layers both painterly and metaphorically, to speak to my evolving relationship with the painting. It carries the pentimento of my life and explorations within the reflective surface of its moon, symbolic of the reflections of darkness co-existing with light in today’s physical world and in the minds and hearts of each one of us. I am thinking in particular of the Gulf oil spill crisis, and of the catastrophe closer to home unfolding in the Athabasca tar sands. I am complicit. My studio practice, my life is interwoven with oil and the reaches of darkness. 
This is not a fable. A long time ago in a far away land, I was with friends stuck in a jeep in the shifting sands of a desert. We were four without water, miles from nowhere. After our eventual recovery, still miles from nowhere, we lounged on carpets in the sand under a canopy of stars. Intoxicated with life regained. In a surreal moment, a nomad wizened by sun and age, appeared from behind a dune just as the full moon came into view. He was carrying a shiny bicycle wheel. He spoke to our Berber companions in Arabic. This is what he said. 
“The Light Always Comes”. 
Above us, the moon cycling through its phases, reflecting light on all the violent beauty below.
 In this new turning of the wheel, I am choosing to include my contemplative practice of sitting meditation in a formal seven day ritual of being present with the painting in the time of transition as the earth surrenders its darkness to the ageless awakening of light. My life practice is the work of inner transformation from the darkness of ignorance to the light of awakened awareness. In sitting, I am a process of embodiment, physically actualizing the transformation implicit in the painting and projected text. I am opening myself to the possibility of being transformed, emptied, as I commit myself to face all that arises, on the cushion and in life. I am the canvas surrendered to the tide of the mind’s movement, witness to its dark elements, the stains of attachment, as well as the letting go, the release into all that is impermanent. Even the light sinks again into the sea before its return. 
So really, in this painting is everything; the desert, the space, endless sky, the waters of river and sea, the heat, the thirst, motion and stasis, experience and the mind and everything in it, the darkness and the light, the total eclipse of the mind, only dependent co-arising existence. I am part of the suffering of the world. My painting is part of the suffering and the love co-arising in this world. My practice is to be equanimous in the face of the world’s difficult teachings. Violence to the planet or to the people of the planet at the deepest level of existence teaches forgiveness, compassion and wisdom if we deepen our understanding to realize non-attachment. The practice of meditation teaches me the emptiness of all things, beneath which lies the ground of unconditioned love. In giving myself to the practice of sitting, I am giving myself to life itself, in the service of love and non-aggression. 
To be in the suffering of the world without attachment is to be in the deepest wisdom and compassion. It is my intention to be in this sustained practice as a gesture of commitment to awakening wisdom and compassion within the darkness of my own being, therefore becoming part of the consciousness that brings light into a world of suffering.

Gabryel Harrison June 2010