Blog by the artist Sanne Kabalt

friend and foe | saari residence #1

This is the first of a series of blogs written from Saari Residence, a residency maintained by the Kone Foundation, in the southwest of Finland, where I am living and working during November and December 2018.


The hands I’m typing this with have obtained a burn from lighting the sauna and a blister from rowing the boat, hinting at the fact that I did both a bit too enthusiastically. Most traces of being here are more inward. Quiet. I was told that among Fins the silences in a conversation are often long and appreciated. Also, most of the time there is no conversation to even test this in. We are eight, but for the first weeks, each of us has been a hermit of his/her own, only occasionally gathering, bursting out of it. 

It is dark by four. Darkness, photography’s friend and foe. I am living upstairs in the yolk-yellow manor house, with a view of the bay, where the sea no longer resembles the sea. At first I worked in the studio they assigned to me, which had the air of a shelter, or a hole where a mammal might hibernate. Then, I decided to work from the house, upstairs on a little hill, to work with a view – resembling a nest of some bird of prey.  

This area is known for its birdlife, though most have migrated elsewhere before I migrated here. And yet, I saw an eagle and there is a species of geese that makes sounds that, several of us have noted, brings to mind a human in pain. You have to remind yourself, it’s geese, it’s geese.


I am photographing myself photographing and writing of my writing. Upon holding my earlier images I realise there can be no one moved by them as I am. I move them. They are mine to hold. And perhaps in this holding, tending the images, there is something at work. I might doubt every bit of my plans, waver over my work, but I care for what I have made and it seems to care for me.

The sun is elusive, but when it does appear, it is pure gold. 

Saari means island, referring to the days when this piece of land was not attached to the mainland. On the other side of the bay the forests are alluring and worth rowing towards, in our little boat named Lovisa. There, the moss is either the deepest radiant green and soft or the lightest whitish green and curly.  

I am feeding the fire to heat the sauna. The crackling sound is almost as satisfying as the resulting heat. 

The forest in the dark is a different being altogether. Slow, slow steps are betraying the fear that I might just step into the sea, unable to distinguish ground from water. Lifting my eyes brings more visibility. Branches, slowly snaking their way skyward. Deep black upon blue black. 

Sanne Kabalt