Zahra Killeen-Chance and Solomon Mortimer
Photographer Solomon Mortimer and choreographic artist Zahra Killeen-Chance were artists in residence with their young daughter at Tylee Cottage in Whanganui from July – November, 2021. Their time in the town was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and soon after the family arrived the country was placed into lockdown in August. This meant that a large amount of their time was spent in the confines of their new home, so the duo who have been making video and photographic works together since 2012, had the parameters of their project mapped out for them. Over the duration of the residency the cottage provided the back drop for an intimate photographic exploration of the spaces of the cottage and the family inhabiting it.
Within weeks of arriving in Whanganui in July, 2021 for their five-month residency at Tylee Cottage, Auckland-based choreographic artist Zahra Killeen-Chance and photographer Solomon Mortimer became slightly more familiar with the confines of the cottage than many other residents before them. In mid-August the whole of the country was placed into Level 4 lockdown. Although this time curtailed the extent of the pair exploring Whanganui, it did provide a framework and starting point for the new photographic and video work that can be seen in their post-residency exhibition.
The couple have been making collaborative work together since 2012, with Mortimer behind the camera and Killeen-Chance often in front of the lens but the choreographing of these images is very much a collaborative process featuring both artists. In their exhibition The Sun Sets Beneath the Ocean the pair have considered the architectural details of the historic cottage. The spaces were the stage for a slow-moving exploration of their time at Tylee, the changing light and also family life, with their infant daughter and with Killeen-Chance, pregnant with the couple’s second daughter. They describe their process as ‘a dialogue between the topography of the body and the topography of the environment.’
Although the cottage was a key site, the family still managed to venture into the wider environs of Whanganui and featured in the exhibition are a wonderful suite of photographs that add to the rich legacy of images made by former photographers who have been in residence at Tylee Cottage.
Alongside photographic works are moving image works, one of which features a new dance performance by Killeen-Chance with the same title as the exhibition that she says “surveys her somatic connection to the elements of the earth (driftwood), water (shell) and air (pumice).” The found objects are dislodged from their natural habitat and placed into a performative space.
A key part of their practice is the production of artist books and the exhibition will have a publication to accompany it with a generous selection of works illustrated. This will be the second book produced as a result of their time in Whanganui. In 2022 their photobook ‘A Room in Whanganui’ which was produced as a result of their residency at Tylee Cottage was awarded the top prize in the Aotearoa Photobook Awards.
In addition to creating collaborative works they have each had an impressive run of performances and exhibitions in their fields. Killeen-Chance is a Distinguished Graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance, an award-winning choreographer and performer who has worked throughout New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region. Mortimer holds a Masters of Fine Arts with First Class Honours from Elam School of Fine Arts and in 2019 he was the recipient of the Marti Friedlander Photographic Award. This is their first solo exhibition in a public gallery. The Gallery’s artist-in-residence programme is generously funded through Creative New Zealand’s Toi Uru Kahikatea Investment programme.
Curator & Public Programmes Manager