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Issue 265
March/April 2011
Intrinsic Values

Web Exclusives
Article

The Resurgence Garden
by
Photograph courtesy: James Towillis, http://jamestowillis.com

Photograph courtesy: James Towillis, http://jamestowillis.com

Photograph courtesy: James Towillis, http://jamestowillis.com

Photograph courtesy: James Towillis, http://jamestowillis.com

Photograph courtesy: James Towillis, http://jamestowillis.com

Photograph courtesy: James Towillis, http://jamestowillis.com

Photograph courtesy: James Towillis, http://jamestowillis.com

Photograph courtesy: James Towillis, http://jamestowillis.com

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The Resurgence Garden

Gardens are a vehicle for reconnecting with the Earth and inner peace.

The Resurgence Garden was created by James Towillis as part of a major gardening show held in Nagasaki, October 2010, on the theme of peace.

The only way that we can make the world a better place is to follow the principles of non-violence. If we make peace with ourselves, with other humans and Nature – we can build a truly sustainable society which nourishes and respects all members of the Earth's community.” - Satish Kumar

The Concept

The Resurgence Garden takes its initial inspiration from the Japanese creation story, in particularly how Amaterasu Omikami ("Great Divinity Illuminating Heaven") is drawn back out of her cave to restore light to the world.

The design represents a symbolic journey in search of our true nature. It begins with the casting away of our fear-based ways of thinking, exposing our true limitless self, but in so doing, leaves us feeling exposed and disconnected to Nature.

Casting aside our old fear-based concepts in the shape of the cave door; our liberated consciousness expands in all directions, seeking our true nature.

And as our new-found awareness increases , so too does our realisation that if we move mindfully and pay attention to each step we take, we are able to create our own paths toward our true nature,

Crossing over the water symbolises purification and a passage between two worlds, it is our heightened state of consciousness that has enabled this. There is no obvious path, forcing us to pay attention to our every move to ensure safe passage. This slowness of movement and necessary consideration of each step encourages us to ‘Be here now!’

How The Concept Translates Into The Built Garden

When we reach a large flat rock (cave door) and find stable footing it is only then that we can pause, look around and take in the wider environment. The rock overhangs the pool and is enclosed at the sides by lush vegetation and tree canopies, creating the sense of safety and enclosure.

A stream with a series of small waterfalls winds its way down to the pool, the sound and movement encourages a calm state of contemplation – what is our true nature?

Climbing up a little and looking back to where we began our journey we notice the bright green shoot of life (Equisetum) growing out of the black hole. It is at this point that we realise that we are not in fact disconnected from Nature and that in fact our true nature is Nature herself.

It could be part of a garden but is conceived more as a conceptual installation.

My path to the Resurgence Garden

I wish to create engaging and relevant works that seek to remind us of our connection to, and dependency upon, the Earth (and each other), encouraging compelling responses towards the subject matter. My interest in this stems from a background in outdoor pursuits, environmental activism, art/ceramics and garden/product design.

After practicing as an outdoor activities instructor for a number of years, I became more aware of the environmental crisis threatening the planet and began to volunteer my time and skills to environmental NGO’s, working as an activist for Amazon Watch and Greenpeace. This eventually became my full time vocation; working as action coordinator with Greenpeace Hong Kong/China for two years.

Despite my commitment to and belief in the aforementioned organisations’ aims, I felt a chasm between the desired efficacy of the direct actions and their outcomes in relation to the public’s response and engagement with them. I left feeling that to achieve a deeper and proactive response from a wider public it is necessary to firstly revive our inherent connection to, and reliance on, Nature – a feeling that continues to grow within me and filters through my work.

Whilst working, volunteering and travelling in other countries, I observed and considered the very different relationships people have with the land and associated art. This led me to explore further the feelings evoked by different environments, and how these are interpreted, processed and depicted through a wide array of mediums. I am excited to explore the possibilities and means of encouraging feelings that could possibly be termed as biophylic within individuals and larger groups – in turn, focusing on the notion of an instinctive bond between humans and other living systems.

My interest in the multitude of feelings that can be evoked through an exposure to different environments was developed further during my study of garden design at Pershore College.

I went on to set up Urbanware – an urban garden and product design company, which led me to design and build my first Chelsea Flower Show garden in 2008. Inspired by the works of M C Escher, this roof garden showed how, in a limited space, you could create a haven which was still practical and provided essential habitats for wildlife.

I have since worked on a number of garden and product design projects, most recently a Show Garden on the Main Avenue for L’Occitane at Chelsea Flower Show, for which I won a Silver Gilt.

In October 2010, I was invited to participate, as one of ten designers from around the world, in the ‘Gardening World Cup’ Japan. This was a conceptual show garden based on the brief of world/inner peace.

This was an opportunity to focus on and develop landscape art that seeks to engage with different audiences in positive and thought-provoking ways.

Among many others, I am interested in and inspired by the work of Resurgence editor, Satish Kumar, Andy Goldsworthy, Claude Cormier, Cornelia Parker, Cao and Perrot, Jim Jarmusch and Antanas Mockus.

"The role of the artist is not to advocate solutions; art is not about protest. It is something much deeper and more subtle – to make us reflect and re-think what it is to be a human being in the 21st century. What do we want to be? It is about the power to re-invent ourselves, to transform our attitude to Nature so that it is no longer about domination or protection. We don’t have that much power. It is Nature which creates us. That’s the kind of education too subtle to put on a syllabus: that’s the important role of art." - Keith Tyson, from Madeleine Bunting: Art and Climate 4, RSA Arts & Ecology

It is statements like these that encourage me to pursue my work in this area. Overall, my work has always come from a love of Nature and a wish to share, discuss and encourage this feeling with others – to know and feel that we are Nature and not separate from it is, in my opinion, essential.

Gardening World Cup 2010, Nagasaki, Japan

The theme for this event, which took place at Palace Huis Ten Bosch, Nagasaki, Japan, was World Peace. Ten gardeners were invited to create gardens that reflected their personal thoughts on the meaning of peace. Nagasaki was the last place an Atomic Bomb was detonated in a civilian area and it is hoped that it will forever remain the last. With the events of Nagasaki as a starting point, the garden show aimed to expand on the theme of “Peace” in a broad and all-encompassing sense.

Simply being anti-war will do little towards achieving world peace. At the root of the problem is a serious lack of inner-peace within each individual. This in turn, can be attributed in part to our disconnection with Nature and the lack of Nature within our living space.

This garden show aimed to highlight the value of inner peace in our lives, drawing on the role of gardens and Nature as a vehicle for reconnecting with the Earth and with our own sense of inner peace.

What is Peace?

A selection of thoughts on peace from people involved in the Gardening World Cup:

Peace is a natural state of the human being waiting to be rediscovered

Peace not only means non-war, but a feeling of peace of mind and peace within your heart

World Peace starts with the individual and with love

Peace is when you’re not scared about anything

Peace means you are excited about the future

Peace means that nobody is fighting

Peace is when you smile for no reason, just because you are happy

Peace is knowing you’re home

Peace comes from confronting yourself

Peace is knowing we are one and attempting to consciously live our daily lives from this view

Peace Plague, Nagasaki Memorial Peace Park

With our minds at rest

And our thoughts clear

Listen to your heart

Breathe

Fill it with Peace

Peace must begin with the individual. It is fuelled by love, kindness

and compassion which are the foundation of society

Peace is the power to forgive someone who has done you wrong

World Peace starts with inner Peace

The Resurgence Garden success

The Resurgence Peace Garden was awarded a silver medal. I had hoped for gold, but had last-minute technical difficulties with the stream and flow of water, so it was not to be. However, I was delighted by the very positive feedback from both visitors to that show and people back home.

I am now studying part time for a Masters in Art and Environment at Falmouth University College, a unique and timely course that encourages a focused engagement with ecological and environmental issues, using art as a cultural agent – a tool for knowledge, understanding and change. We have an amazing group of cross disciplinary practitioners working on projects that range from plastic in the oceans and the disappearance of the cloud forest, through to anthropological film making. Although we are working on a diverse range of subjects collaboration is common, coupled with an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and shared vision – I know I am exactly where I ought to be.

For more information on the Art and Environment course at Falmouth: www.falmouth.ac.uk/201/courses-7/postgraduate-courses-43/art-and-environment-ma-2855.html rane.falmouth.ac.uk

James Towillis is an award-winning garden designer specialising in contemporary garden design for town and country gardens. For more information: jamestowillis.com/home.html

Resurgence at the heart of earth, art and spirit