The end of September brought a close to my one-month residency at Taidelaitos Haihatus (Haihatus Art Centre) in Joutsa, Southeastern Finland. It was a fantastic and hugely enriching experience (in all sorts of ways) and I felt very, very sad to leave. A month sounds like a very long time but it went incredibly quickly. From the start I decided to focus on landscape painting for the duration of the residency, which is a depart from my usual strands of work but I think was very useful in helping me look at my painting technique and the process of painting in a different way. I was hugely inspired by the forest and the crystal-clear lakes around Joutsa and, besides painting, I did a lot of cycling, walking, photography and sketching in the area around the town. I was also able to squeeze in a quick visit across the Russian border to St Petersburg, which is a monumental and truly beautiful city (my only complaint was that I spent almost all my time in the Hermitage and the State Russian Museum and wasn't able to see as much of the city as I would have wanted- A repeat visit is clearly needed!). The few days I spent in beautiful Helsinki before the residency were also very enjoyable (see my previous pieces on the Ateneum and other Helsinki museums) and I had the enormous satisfaction to visit Helsinki again and get back in touch with a lovely old friend. So all in all it was a tremendous month and I felt very emotional when it was time to leave all of that behind and come back to London.
I would like to send a huge thanks (and a big hug) to Merja Metsänen and the rest of the Haihatus team for putting together this opportunity for artists. Residencies (a month or longer) are offered around the year and the centre is very well equipped with comfortable accommodation, spacious shared studios and cosy common spaces. The team are incredibly friendly and willing to help with any questions or needs that might arise and, as mentioned, the town is fairly small (but well linked and provided with all the facilities you might need) so it's very easy to take one of the centre's bikes and lose yourself in the forest. So if you're looking for a place to rest and refresh yourself and stimulate your creativity in a friendly and beautiful environment, I would definitely recommend Haihatus. Please do not hesitate to contact me for any details on my experience there.
Two of the studies I painted whilst at Haihatus will be shown at a group exhibition to be held at the centre later on in the Autumn alongside work produced by my talented colleagues.