Above Selection from of Edition 15: Mr Krusoe’s Garden Letterpress Series 2001 -2003, Printed in; Tallinn Estonia. Eagle Gallery London UK. Collections: Simmons and Simmons, Milan. British Library, London.
Mr Krusoe’s Garden
This accompanying text was written so many years ago, 2004 to be exact, I would now revise it entirely. Yet to me it is a genuine ‘object’ from the past and I preserve it as an archaeologist would a treasure unearthed in the development of my thoughts. I may be tempted to rewrite yet it still rings true in many ways to day. Same setting different story today.
The Turning Point
“Hurled headlong flaming from ethereal sky With hideous ruin and combustion down To bottomless perdition, there to dwell in Adamtine chains and penal fire.” Milton ‘Paradise Lost’
I was setting and proofing the work ‘Breakfast at an Evil Hour’ when the planes were being flown into the twin towers on Sept 11th. This event that has so changed our world reminded me of the story of Phaeton the son of Helios the sun god in Greek mythology who borrows his fathers chariot and by riding too close to the earth sets the world on fire. In many stories and myths there is a turning point where a person/s is going about their daily life when a murder, a storm, a crash or some other cataclysmic event changes things forever. The turning point is an often-used device in a narrative, from Plato, Shakespeare to mainstream Hollywood films. I have always been interested in this strategy in literature, the chance encounter that intervenes in life, a catastrophic event that engulfs a characters life exiling them to a world turned upon its head As the descendant of Irish immigrants to England the notion of exile is a part of my history, the Irish have a long roll call of exile and emigration often through oppression and poverty we have become nation that exists not only within Irish borders but also beyond. I can still remember when I was six my grandfather showing me a sign on a pub door that read ‘No Blacks, Dogs or Irishmen’. The son of Catholics in a country that marginalised the Irish and where there is still intolerance toward Catholics, I was schooled in the injustices metered out toward Christ, my country, the martyrs of the republic and the sacrifice of the English Catholic Martyrs dying for their beliefs. My view that Faith, that unequivocal belief in something more than that which exists in tangible form, will lead to a resolute stance in the world which in turn leads ultimately in being cast out. Being an artist is the natural profession of those that have fallen from grace.
The Fall from Grace
Hosea 9-17; “My God will cast them away because they did not hearken unto Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations.”
There are many myths of banishment, the Jewish Dispersion, Eden, the Pandarva of the Mahabharata [Bhagavan Gita: [Bhagavan = God Gita = song ‘Song of God’] the Pandavas were cheated out of their lands by the Kauravas exiled to wander India for 13 years with the promise at the end of that time their lands will be returned. The most famous of these stories of banishment is that of the Garden of Eden, in the Garden a fallen angel tempts Eve and leads to mans’ own banishment from paradise. The fallen angel is Lucifer who was banished himself by God and exiled to a desolate place of fathomless voids.
This fallen angel’s evil influence found harbourage within the serpent; and Adam knew it not.
In Christian Culture, Eve by eating from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden causes humanity to be cast out for committing the first sin [to seek knowledge?]. The ideas of sin and redemption with their notions of good and evil are pivotal in the history of humanity
“Thither they went down out of Eden, and dared not rest, until, looking back, even the verges of the Garden that had been their joy and peace were hidden from them. And night fell, cold and dark, and they were alone.”
“And at the east of the paradise whence God had cast out Adam, he set Cherubim, angels of heaven, and in their hands were flaming swords, turned every way, to keep and guard the way of the Tree of Life.”
This moment of exile is the beginning of suffering, humanity condemned to wander the Earth in search of a way back to Eden.
In Buddhist philosophy there is a term Juku or Juko meaning someone who suffers for the souls of others. During my up bringing I was constantly told that grace was achieved through suffering, Christ died for the sins of humanity and by taking upon himself our sins he redeemed us all. Robinson Crusoe’s solitary sojourn suffering on his Desert Island is considered Gods punishment for sin, this was punishment for daring to go against his father’s wishes and venture abroad the combination of sin and suffering inextricably linked. The Bhagavan Gita is also concerned with the liberation of suffering it states three causes [sin’s] of suffering desire, ignorance and hatred. Suffering is necessary to the redemption of a mans soul in the eyes of many religions, Robinson Crusoe finds himself in an emotional environment as well as a physical one and I was moved to think of his sojourn on the Island as a breakdown, a relationship collapse, and physical disability such as a stroke. My father who had a stroke some years ago lives on his own and like the man/bug in Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ his neighbours treatment of his affliction was first one of shock and concern, then a sense of duty and sacrifice for his suffering eventually however he is a burden to them, an embarrassment. Religion colonised suffering, the people savages to be converted to serve and obey sold the concept of redemption so as to provide the warriors of Christ.
For the coloniser the ‘savage’ needs to be saved from their suffering, their ignorance of civilisation seen as an affliction. Robinson Crusoe who saved his ‘servant’ from cannibals believed Friday needed to be inducted into the ways of civilisation the ethics of work and reward. In Milton’s (1608-74) Paradise Lost  Satan is considered a coloniser, Milton a poet at the time of the Puritan Revolution was part of a period of colonial expansion that began in the Elizabethan era and gathered momentum under the commonwealth. The Elizabethan Shakespeare whose last play was the Tempest based it on a religious group of colonists shipwrecked on their way to Virginia blown onto rocks in the Bermudas. The Island where Shakespeare sets the play is inhabited by Caliban [often spelt cannibal by the Elizabethans the letters ‘l’ and ‘n’ transposed] who is often referred to as a savage by Prospero the oppressor and civiliser of Caliban. Crusoe endures his island isolation as a trial, a test by god; he seeks to make the island a model of his world, a microcosm of civilisation and in his approach acts as coloniser. Great Britain as the Eden that Crusoe has been cast out from and on his island he attempts to recreate god’s work.
The English Garden
One of our most celebrated poets William Blake wrote ‘was Jerusalem builded here in England’s green and pleasant land’
Then, every beast and living thing that was in the Garden, and roved its shades and valleys and drank of its waters, was at peace in the life that had been given it, without fear or disquietude or wrong. But as yet they had no names. Trees grew in abundance on the hills and in the valleys of the Garden, and every tree that sprang forth out of the earth was fair in sight and sweet to eat. The garden in England plays a crucial role in the national psyche, this green and pleasant land is said to be built by a nation of gardeners, and it is necessary to any understanding of English culture that the garden’s importance be recognised. The garden has been the source of inspiration of England’s poets, writers and artists. The Tate Britain is currently holding an exhibition titled the ‘Art of the Garden’ where one of the sections in the exhibition is dedicated to artists gardens such as Patrick Heron’s ‘Eagles Nest’, Ian Hamilton Finlay’s ‘Little Sparta’ and Derek Jarman’s ‘ Prospect Cottage’ garden at Dungeness in England the garden is a work of art.
‘God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures. It is the greatest refinement to the spirits of man; without which buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks: and a man shall ever see that when ages grow civility and elegancy, men come to build stately sooner than to finely garden; as id gardening were the greater perfection. Francis Bacon , “Of Gardening”
To the English poet Andrew Marvell [1621-78] gardens, meadows and woods represented the peripheries of mans existence within and without nature, and Marvell explored these shaded boundaries for what they reveal of the human condition. In his poem ‘Garden’ Marvell seeks to define contemplation, its nature, ecstasies and limitations. In the second stanza of this work Marvell rejects society for solitude, it is only in gardens that ‘fair quiet’ and ‘innocence’ are found. Stanza five is celebratory of the commune with nature, the poet is passive while nature assails him, offers itself to him, but if this is a type of Eden it is also the place where man can fall into sin. The poet stumbles ‘ensnared by flowers’ and finally falls ‘on grass’ the biblical reference here is a biblical one ‘all flesh is grass’. Later in the poem he regrets the Fall, relating his experience to the life that Adam led in the Garden of Eden before meeting Eve, the poem ends with a return from this reverie to the outside world that begins to intrude upon him. This state of ecstasy for Marvell cannot be sustained because of the world’s fallen state.
“In the very midst of the Garden were two trees, secret and wondrous; the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their branches rose in a silence so profound that no cry of bird or beast was heard there, and no living thing shaped by the Lord God out of the dust of the earth ever drew near.” Stories from the Bible, by Walter de la Mare
Pete Nevin July 2004
2003 ‘Mr Krusoe’s Garden’ Eagle Gallery UK 15 letterpress prints edition 10, Boxed with ISBN.
Collection: British Library, London, UK.
‘Listening Tree’ published book with [ISBN 1-902174-11-9]
1998 ‘Buena Vista’ Eagle Gallery [catalogue ISBN 0-9531793-4-6]
14 Silkscreen prints, 14 letterpress prints ed of 10 1996 The Cut Gallery, London, UK 10 paintings