Quarantine Artist Residency Project (QARP): an initiative conceived when the world was shutting down due to COVID-19. It became a way to maintain a visual diary for reflecting, creating, and sharing strategies to support a growing network of non-EU artists struggling without much government support.
Through writing and visual experiments, I am seeking ways to articulate concerns around adaptation and identity of an immigrant artist living in Finland. Self-isolation in a foreign land with unsettling mental and financial pressures only adds to the existing challenges of moving to a new place. I am reflecting upon these beginnings and archiving these experiments online, and will encourage others in the network to contribute their own reflections in this on-going project.

Day1 : (Complete Denial) We could see it coming, just not know what. We could inform ourselves with the influx of news and panic, but not take much action. Speculation about the near future cut short and became our reality within a matter of days.
My first day of quarantine was filled with this joy for not having to burn out, not knowing what was coming ahead of me. I could see it coming, but then I was not really sure what.

Day 2: What is the difference between “Self-Isolation” and “Self-Quarantine”. What does it mean to “self-observe”, “self-monitor”, “self-care” and then to “self-quarantine” to further “self-fuck” ourselves? Let’s plan ahead for a possible quarantine period.

Day (3),(4),(5),(11),(12) or perhaps more spent on trying to request student housing associations to give students, especially non-eu/non-finnish a kind of a house rent relief for next two months.
A service manager from a student housing association where I am renting my accommodation from, gets back to my email and suggests that I look into an update on Financial Student Aid benefits during COVID-19 on Kela’s website. I wish she and her staff would acknowledge that there are many, many students living here that are neither from an EU country nor are they Finnish. And they are clearly NOT ELIGIBLE TO KELA BENEFITS. KELA was never for us, nor did we expect it to give us any benefits.

Day 6: (diptych drawings) Art was never a luxury.
Day 7: “I am in the mood to dissolve in the sky.” Virginia Woolf
Day 8: Walks near the Baltic sea
Day 9: Stay Home, Stay Safe. S T A Y H O M E, S T A Y S A F E. #StayHomeStaySafe
Day 10: Uusimaa Locking Down

Day 13: Enough with Virus Talk.

Dad: What is that pink thing in your painting?
Me: The sun? What did you think it was?
Dad: Looks like the virus to me (haha)
Me: Oh! (Lol)
Dad: How are you coping?
Me: Hmm.. I go for walks near the sea and the forest, and look at the blue sky and the water as usual. Uff! I sometimes don’t know how to answer such questions.
Dad: Acha, acha! Here you go, speak to your mom. (‘Acha’, means okay/alright in Urdu)

Day 14: Forest Tale Afternoon spent with Maria and Emma.

Day 23: Stay-at-Home and Wait for Benefits




Zahrah Ehsan is a visual artist from Pakistan currently based in Finland studying MA in Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Arts from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Finland. She received her BFA with Honours in 2012, with a concentration in Painting from the National College of Arts, Lahore. Her training at NCA has allowed her to expand the boundaries of her practice through experimentation in Painting, installation, photography and performance. She has furthered her practice by exhibiting in galleries across Pakistan and internationally, as well as participating in an international residency at the Vermont Studio Center, USA. Zahrah returned to her alma mater after finishing her BFA, where she designed and taught a number of studio and theory based courses including Painting and Drawing, Fine Art Seminar.

Link to the Quarantine Artist Residency Project (QARP) 

Quarantine Paintings (Day 1 – 14)
Zahrah Ehsan