Author Archives: Gabryel Harrison

On Painting

Earthskin lemon tree

The film referred to in the poem below is “Dream of Light”, https://vimeo.com/216873932

After O’Hara
Why I am not…

I am not a poet
I am a painter
Why? I think I would rather be
a poet, but I am not

Well
as soon as I saw the yellow
lemons hanging plump as moons
shining out from their orbit of stilled
leaves all glossy with sun
I thought of Antonio Lopez Garcia
and his quince the courtyard and
the Spanish sun I was remembering how absorbed I was
in that slow-moving film
slow as paint drying I remember how Antonio
knocked two nails into the ground took his stance
centered himself on the tree
with plumb bob and horizontal line
how he laid down white marks crosses
carefully drawn on fruit and leaves
so he would know his path

Painter after painter ruin after ruin
age after age the painter’s gaze
faithfully receives the world

surrenders
to the tree growing within to the ripening beauty
imperishable presence of lemons
quince or O’Hara’s SARDINES to the things
we vivid see that drop us into stillness

though the leaf curls the fruit darkens
and the flesh rots

ripening beauty

Pond

Muriwai pond

I walk past this pond as I walk the ridge to make my way down to the sea. It is alive with much birdlife, the air filled with their song. On a day I was caught in a downpour, rain falling intense as a monsoon, tiny frogs and salamanders were springing up from the long dry grass. They leaped from near under my feet and scurried downhill, racing with apparent reckless abandon toward their rapidly filling aqueous home. 

Day Trip

view from the bathroom window, Ponsonby Public Library

I love libraries. When your phone is suddenly dead and you need to make travel arrangements, the public library is there to supply free wifi, power and plenty of reading material while you wait for it to be recharged. While doing so, in looking at back issues of the publications “Art New Zealand” and “Art News”, I was able to discover two new possibilities for artist residencies in this beautiful country.

Where Gannets Leap

Where Gannets Leap

You can view the fledglings from the cliff top where about 1200 gannet pairs are nesting. At this time of the year, March and April the young are leaving the nest to take their first flight.

The poem below was written here at Muriwai in response to the recent death by suicide of O.

Whoever lets go in his fall, dives into the source and is healed
Rilke

Sometimes a man stands up
calls their Beloved on the phone to tell them
I love you
rings the florist to say again in flowers
I want you to remember I always loved you
and keeps on walking

I think of this as I walk along the ridge
feeling the beckoning arms of the surf below
By my side waves on leaning lances
wild agapanthus standing tall phalanx of stems
bearing aloft their sky-blue crowns
Flower of love guiding each tender soul
down the path to the western sea

The black dog barks its warning I am given a pass
the gates are not open to me not this day
What gates of suffering could not be closed for
Oliver
What dark undertow led him to that bridge
what edge called him from his skin that day

He departed as a bird falling
falling upward into the greatest immensity
launching himself as a fledgling dives
into that abyss we all must go like gannets leap
birthing themselves headlong
into the tides of light

 

Murawai week one

Murawai studio week one

standing against the wind

I am excited by a whole new palette here. The colors all shot through with light, though not so on this cloudy day. As I begin my exploration the entry point seems to be through the sea and its changing atmosphere. I love to walk the beach in all weather. I am thinking about edges…those distinct and those lost. Edges of the internal as well as the external landscapes. I am looking at the lines lost as sea and sky dissolve into each other, those shapes defined by their shadows as our aliveness is shaped by the ever-present shadow of loss. I am looking at the dark shapes of the dunes given weight by the lightness of the sage- silver shimmer of beach grass ever-shifting. I look at and cradle in my hand transparent pearlescent shells, halfmoon slivers like the castoff scales of water gods, metallic black sand, weathered warm greys and more silver of driftwood, the volcanic looking charred remnants of beach fires.

All these edges, these studies in contrast, lead me naturally to the ultimate edge and its borderlands, the territory of life and death. Like the sides of a coin, we cannot separate life from death. Death is always in our midst. In the week since I have been working in this New Zealand studio, two souls within my extended family have left this world. Two funerals have been held. Though I have never met either of these men, their sudden leaving is deeply felt. The disturbance of death always asks of us the living, to examine and to re-order our life. It is through great loss and suffering we can find ourselves destroyed or through the struggle find a way to transform our heart into something wider, deeper, more full with empathy and compassion. To accept the pain of loss without rejection, to allow ourselves to become intimate with death is to give oneself the greatest possibility for intimacy and vitality in life.

I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death’s note wants to climb over—
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

at the edge of the world

 

 

Murawai 2019

Awe inspiring length of black sand stretching as far as the eye can see or the willing feet walk. Kite surfers, body surfers bathers and board surfers. Many walk and enjoy the endless roll of the surf. The sun heats the iron in the black sand, the warmth penetrates or burns the soles of your feet on the landward edge by the dunes.

So many greens! I was curious about my selection of paint before I left Vancouver, why I asked myself, was I bringing so many tubes of greens? Many I had never used before.

I am inside Lorca’s green morning

feasting eyes, my heart leaping greenly

unpeeled green

How many shades of green? asks my heart

weeping

as the underground spring

spilling into the garden

Artist Residency

I am excited to say that I have been accepted for a month-long artist residency in New Zealand, this March 2019. As I near the mid-point of my 60th year, I feel a bit like our native salmon who instinctually navigate themselves to the stream of their birth years after swimming in a wide and faraway sea. My intention is to relax into the land of my beginnings, to feel the currents of air and water that first entered my being. Given a studio in which to experiment and explore, how might these influences inform my work?

I will be posting on my blog now and then. If you wish to share a glimpse into my adventure, I invite you to check my website, go to “blog” and follow along.

Earthskin Muriwai is a sanctuary of simplicity and silence,
amidst nature – where during creative exploration we can
move beyond the self to a deeper consciousness.

This is a place where the sacred blending of human and nature connect and has the opportunity to be re-cognised.
This place allows deep quiet and immersion, the land becomes the True Teacher.

Awaken each day and go on

Road to essence-years of accumulated paint on the crossbar of my easel

 

When discouraged, and in need of strength and support to go on, I do as Lawrence Carroll has said, I” just look back over my shoulder at the example of Giorgio Morandi”. I am forever inspired by this extraordinary painter’s devotion to seeing, his persistence in painting ever deeper, as he has said: “into the essence of things”. To work every day, to bring everything one has to the task you have set yourself though one fails, again and again, this is the only wholehearted path. Morandi once said to a reporter, pointing to a thick, dried crust of waste pigment; “Here are most of my paintings”. In the recognition of the necessity of failure, I find the courage to continue to risk, to risk more. In risking failure, I acknowledge this accumulation of scrapes and scars, this misstep and stumble is the invaluable gained experience necessary to develop resilience, empathy, growth and eventual success. Again I quote Lawrence Carroll:

“One of the greatest gifts and lessons given us when we walk into (Morandi’s) world and look at the paintings he made is for the young artist to know that one does not need to abandon oneself. One does not need to follow fashion into the ditch and awaken with nothing one can hold and call his own. One simply needs to trust deeply what one has and to hold this closely and nurture it, whatever it may be. And to simply awaken each day and go on, and to not always question every move one makes and to not always look for answers in all you do, as the answers will come over time”.

 

Marking the Infinite-Visions of Wonder

Angelina Pwerle, “Bush Plum” (2013) (all images courtesy of Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, New Orleans, and the artists)

Visiting the Museum of Anthropology to see these remarkable paintings by some of the leading  Aboriginal women artists of Australia, was a revelation. To be in the experience of these magical works gave me a feeling of aliveness and expansiveness, connecting me to a universe of truths far beyond my fragile concerns.

The paintings are composed of traditional abstract mark marking denoting nature, spirits, and a disappearing way of life lived in relation to the cosmos. Angelina Pwerle”s “Bush Plum”, captivated and enthralled me. I loved her precision and meditative repetition of marks, meticulous and singular, yet varied in size and color that are placed with an organic, flowing, intuitive gesture that vibrates with an incandescent energy opening like a portal into the infinite. Her inspiration is a tiny flower, the Bush Plum of the title, which blooms in the red sands of the desert. These infinitely subtle variations of dots constellate the canvas like a night sky, waves of the sea or the wave’s traces left in sands. This abstraction of the tiny white flower creates a canvas of great depth and power. I sat for a long time in front of Angelina Pwerle’s “Bush Plum”, as well as the other paintings she had in the show. I feel I have taken with me its presence of stillness and absorbed its sensation of continuous movement, the ongoingness of time and beauty. I am reminded of Agnes Martin: “When I think of art, I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life”.

The Canadian writer Shawna Lemay, in her blog (which is of great inspiration to me), quotes Glen Gould in a post she writes about poetry, though equally applies to the art of these paintings: The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline, but a gradual lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.”

In these paintings, I found  a lyricism and rigor that recalls other contemporary artists like Agnes Martin, Vija Celmins and of course the obsessive dots of  Yayoi Kusama.

Marking The Infinite” continues on at MOA until March 31st, 2019.