Zahrah Ehsan is a visual artist from Lahore, Pakistan and is currently doing her MA in Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Arts from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. 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 graduation, where she designed and taught a number of studio and theory based courses including Painting and Drawing, Fine Art Seminar.
‘I have to speak to myself. Again.
What do you mean?
I mean, I will have to revisit the time I moved to Finland, which was in Fall 2018 - 1st of September to be exact.
Yeah, I know. You should be proud of yourself for making it though.
Yeah! I am. So much has happened since.’
Why did it take you so long to work for this biennale? You had so much material from this trip to Repossari.
Are you afraid of your audience looking at this work and thinking that you are crazy? Or that you think a lot?
Because you are literally talking to yourself?’
‘Yes… and no.’
‘Well, I can not really control what anyone thinks of me or my works can I? It should not matter.’
‘Do you wanna try breathing first?’
‘Yea, I guess.’
‘Breathe in 1...2...3...4…
Breathe out 1...2...3...4…
So? You did not answer my question.’
‘I mean, I am nervous because everyone will now know how I was thinking and what I was trying to do at the time. I am not thinking first and saying it out loud later like usual, or like most people.
I am just being myself and approaching it like I would do with most of my other kinds of work.
They are confessional and…’
‘Do you think people will find you crazy?’
‘No, no.. because it is not like I am hallucinating. And I never have. I am just reacting to a few of my materials that I had created at Pori, and having a dialogue with myself.
You could say I am reflecting out loud.’
‘Okay, okay! Let’s quickly go over this.’
Also, it is OKAY to think like this. Who knows how everyone is thinking and speaking to themselves all the time. So, it should be fine.’
‘Okay, let’s start. What do we have here?’
‘Two photographs of the same window created on September 25, 2018 at 2:47 PM
(Time and Date according to my Macbook. Eee :D)
Reposaari, an island in Pori, Finland.’
‘What made you photograph this window of the room you were staying in?’
‘It reminded me of this photograph of my work I had made when I was in Lahore.’
‘Hmm.. Yea, I see.’
‘Hai na?’ (means ‘Isn’t it?’ in Urdu)
‘Yea, I see it. This was part of an on-site installation you had created, along with a mess that you had made inside a bathroom connected to a room of a house that was later demolished in December 2017.’
‘Hahaha..That was one long-ass sentence!
Anyway, I get it. You can call this a picture, a painting or a window to a space that seems physically inaccessible to me at least. Or perhaps accessible and approachable at times by just looking at it. It kept changing for me when I was in Lahore. My chaotic Lahore only fed into my curiosity to look for views through frames like this for instance.
And now Finland feeds it in a rather subtle, yet… Hmm… not quite sure how to finish this sentence.’
‘And so you found a similar frame with a familiar picture/view at the accommodation in Repossari.
You were easily drawn to familiarity.
‘Were you able to access the view?’
‘Not sure. All I know is that I was able to see the blue skies. So familiar, yet so foreign. I had not experienced the sky this clear in Lahore. I had never lived near the sea. I never felt what I had felt on this day.’
‘You do know we all exist under the same sky?!’
‘Yea, but for some reason it was different here in Reposaari.’
‘What about these?’
‘That is me sitting near the sea and looking at some drawings I had made when I was in Lahore. The setting seemed overwhelming and unreal at Repossari. It gave me the view I have been visualising and making in my paintings. I did not want to be anywhere else other than this spot.
I wanted the sea to wash away everything that was broken inside me.
So cliche’, but I wanted it to happen.’
‘What did it show on your google maps?’
‘Did you succeed?’
‘In making it to the margin, so it could take away your troubles?’
‘I am not sure. I did try though.’
‘How? Do you think you want to do this?’
‘Yea, it’s okay! Let's watch the video now.’