Satu Taskinen is a Finnish writer living in Vienna, Austria. She worked at Hôtel Chevillon in 2018.
The Hôtel Chevillon in Grez-sur-Loing near Paris was my working site and home from the beginning of February to the end of April 2018. I was writing my fourth novel, which will be published in the beginning of 2021.
I settled in very quickly. Grez is a little village at the edge of a huge forest, the famous Fontainebleau. It takes about 2 hours to arrive there from Paris, first by train, then by bus, and finally, on foot. To live in, I had an apartment with a kitchenette and a balcony. From the windows, I could see both the river Loing overlooking a big garden, and the Place de la République.
This big blue house was also filled with other residents living and working there. Most of them were from Gothenburg, Sweden, and stayed for shorter periods of time than I. Only one another Finn stayed after me for one month longer. I was the only writer; the others were musicians, AV-artists, painters, journalists and scientists. We would sometimes meet in the kitchen downstairs, go for walks or enjoy dinner and chats together.
I lived a simple, quiet life in Grez. My brain and whole system slowed down. The work could spread out and have more space and air. I was able to listen better again. This ‘listening’, to the text, to the surroundings, to ‘what is’, is in the core of my work, and essential to my way of working.
This quiet and simple life with routines was very healthy, as well. I would go outside twice a day, doing sports or just going for strolls and visiting other villages. Doing sports is often a bit challenging. It is good, because it triggers feelings and inspirations and, at the same time, it is possible to work out stress by moving, so that it does not pile up. But it doesn’t stop here, as a way to deal with stress; it moves on, transforms to whatever energy or matter which can be later seen in the results of the work.
I went to France because I wanted to experience living in another society other than that which I already knew from living in: Austria, Germany, and Finland among others. I wanted to be able to spend time in other colours, customs, smells, and ways of thinking. I wanted to be listening to my surroundings and to different voices in Europe. And I did. There were a lot of possibilities to do this ”listening”, both in the nature and the villages and city. Like when I missed the last bus in Melun, 30 minutes from Grez, for the third time (!) and had to overcome it (again!). Or when I went walking in Paris or meeting friends. Or just buying bread at the local boulangerie, or taking part in the village fêtes.
The first exhibit that I visited in Paris was a good match for my working themes, which have to do with ‘fighting’ and ‘struggle’. It was ‘Power Plays’ in the Louvre. And there where others to follow, like the castle in Fontainebleau, with one black hat of Napoleon.
At the core of my artwork, there is this thought that in the end it all comes down to oneself. Everything that people do and decide together, has a beginning in the very private sensations of each individual. It is thus worthwhile to get to know oneself, more and better, the sameness and otherness, both of which also get formed by the surroundings.
I fell in love with Grez. The river Loing. The forest. On my strolls, I even saw small piglets (that turned out to be wild boars), swans sitting on their eggs, a few snakes, etc. My 3 months at the residency was both long and short at the same time. And before hearing SKR would let this residency go, I had already decided I would apply again. Europe is also very much worth to get to know, better and more. Not only, but particularly, for Europeans and European artists.