Zahra Killeen-Chance and Solomon Mortimer – the Tylee Cottage Artists-in-Residence, July – November 2021
Enjoy the Sarjeant’s Q&A sessions with current Tylee residents Zahra Killeen-Chance and Solomon Mortimer:
Zahra Killeen-Chance is a Distinguished Graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance, from which she graduated in 2008 with a Diploma in Dance Performance, Contemporary Major. Her choreographic focus is directed towards deconstructing binary readings by creating performance, video and installation works that move ambiguously between the known and unknown. In 2011 she completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Creative and Performing Arts at The University of Auckland, with Distinction. She won a scholarship to undertake a Master of Performance and Media Arts at the Auckland University of Technology in 2015, and graduated with First Class Honours.
Zahra is an award winning choreographer and performer. In 2012 she was awarded Supreme Winner of the Short and Sweet Dance Festival; Auckland Outstanding Choreography, DANZ; and Best Emerging Choreographer, Metro Magazine’s Best of Auckland. She has undertaken several residencies including Artspace NZ (2014), MAP Research Series (2015), and Asia NZ Foundation, Taipei Artist Village (2017).
Zahra has produced and choreographed works throughout New Zealand and Asia Pacific including China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei and Rarotonga. She has been commissioned to make works for Auckland Arts Festival, Tempo Dance Festival and Footnote New Zealand Dance. She has choreographed and produced group theatre works that include Elliptical Fictions (2018-19), A Figure Exhales (2017), The Fallen Mystery (2015), and GOGODO (2013). She has choreographed, performed and produced solo theatre works including Shadow of Ease (2018), Love Me Do (2016), Is That Her (2012, 2014), and To Be Glorified (2013).
Zahra has choreographed performances, performed and exhibited at public and private galleries throughout New Zealand including the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, St Paul Street Gallery, Artspace, McLeavey Gallery, and Bowerbank Ninow. She performed her series Breath of Air at St Paul Street Gallery and at the Oceanic Performance Biennial, Rarotonga. Zahra is a McLeavey Gallery artist where she has solo exhibitions and performances that include Nichework (2019), Angular Momentum (2018), and Subject of My Devotion (2017). She has also had collaborative exhibitions with Solomon Mortimer at the McLeavey Gallery including Antumbra (2015), and When the sun sets your eyes change colour (I hope this is true) (2014).
Zahra has also co-published two books with photographer and bookmaker Solomon Mortimer: When the sun sets are eyes change colour (I hope this is true) (2014), which was a finalist in the NZ Photo Book awards 2015; and Many Things were not in the Fantasy (2017).
How do you describe yourself as an artist: A choreographic artist
Can you tell us about your proposed undertaking whilst at Tylee Cottage: To undertake an interdisciplinary project in collaboration with Solomon Mortimer that explores the idea of self and/or body within local and domestic environments. The project questions how one can re-consider these relationships and aims to disrupt the destructive modus of human dominance over the landscape. In order to recover the interconnectedness between ourselves and the environment that we are in.
Medium/s: movement, photography, video, clay
Can you please give us a brief description of your hopes for your Tylee Cottage Residency period: During the residency I hope to delve deeper into the collaborative practice between myself and Solomon. I hope that we will take our photographic and video explorations into unexpected terrain. I also look forward to developing my artistic practice with clay and movement. I would like to explore Whanganui and become acquainted with the surrounding area.
Tell us about your experiences making your art. For instance, how long does a piece take you generally? Do you do research? Is your creation process very physical, very cerebral? Is there a long gestation period? My experience in making art is different for each project I undertake. Sometimes there is a long gestation period where ideas linger and slowly form into being and sometimes the idea and form arrives very quickly. As I come from a dance background, I’m very physical with my art practice. I need to move through and process my ideas physically. I like to video record and photograph my process in order to test ideas and have tangible feedback of what something looks and feels like.
Is there an audience you particularly want to reach or a message that you hope to communicate? In my work I’m searching how to reveal the uncanny and the unknowable. I’m interested in expressing the intuitive unconscious that cannot be explained through words but be felt. I would like my audience to feel moved when they experience my work, in ways that they are not necessarily able to express through words.
Are there themes that seem to pop up again and again in your work? What are they? Do you know why they are there? One of the main themes that come up in my work is the deconstruction of binary values, such as absence/presence. It is an ongoing interest for me to investigate different approaches for staging deconstructions using modalities of visibility, stillness/movement and aurality. In order to expose that it is neither one value nor the other but an oscillation of both at the same time.
What or who influences you? Is there something you find particularly inspiring? I’m very much influenced by my arts community and the environment that I live in. I am influenced by what I observe in my day to day life and the culture that I am surrounded by.
Solomon Mortimer was born in Auckland in 1991. He is the 2019 recipient of the Marti Friedlander Photographic Laureate. Since 2012 he has been regularly exhibiting both nationally and abroad and has prints held in public collections including Christchurch City Art Gallery, Sir George Grey Special Collection, James Wallace Arts Trust and the Auckland University Collection. His book works are held in most significant library collections nationally and have also toured in exhibitions internationally. In 2015, his publication F.16 G3 20/25/30 won the inaugural New Zealand Photo Book of the Year self-published prize. Solomon holds a Masters of Fine Arts with first class honours from Elam School of Fine Arts and is represented by Anna Miles Gallery in Auckland. He has published 28 artist books, the latest being A Sun Dance in Sandringham in 2019 which was distributed as PhotoForum issue #90
How do you describe yourself as an artist: I would describe myself as a photographic artist with a particular interest in small run books and analog printing.
Proposed undertaking whilst at Tylee cottage: While in residence at the cottage I have proposed to undertake a multi-media project with my partner Zahra Killeen-Chance. Working with still photography, moving image, printed material and sculpture. Along side this I intend to undertake some smaller independent photographic studies/series.
Medium/s: Still photography (analog), digital printing (for publications), moving image.
Home town: Auckland
Can you give us a brief description of your hopes for your Tylee Cottage Residency period: If by the end of my stay here, I feel I have created a collection of work that communicates a connection to the people and place of Whanganui, then I would be extremely satisfied. Coming into this residency with a young and ever expanding family, I also hope that the experience of spending a long focused period of time together will be reflected in the work.
Do have a connection to Whanganui that you are willing to share? My father told me on the phone this week that apparently my Grandmother was born and lived here until she was twenty and that her father Harold Taylor was a managing director of the Kempthorne Prosser Fertiliser Works for many years. So I intend to do more looking into that connection.
Tell us about your experiences making your art. For instance, how long does a piece take you generally? Do you do research? Is your creation process very physical, very cerebral? Is there a long gestation period? My process seems to be ever evolving, very much in response to the nature of each project’s requirements. However generally speaking the generative/ exploratory stages are often far more physical and opportunistic than pre-meditated. Once the work begins to have a rough shape, things slow down a lot and will often gestate for quite some time until the gaps are filled and I have a clear understanding of what it wants to be.
Is there an audience you particularly want to reach or a message that you hope to communicate? My own interests very much lie in the visual language and craft of the photographic image. I was trained very technically and although I often subvert or ignore many of the classical considerations of a technically proficient image, I still consider myself a very traditional photographer. Therefore many of my peers and the audiences that enjoy my work are often, or appreciators of, photography as a medium of craft and precision.
Are there themes that seem to pop up again and again in your work? What are they? Do you know why they are there? I am always drawn to the narratives of human experience. The sheer breadth of the spectrum this covers is so incomparably fascinating and fantastic that it has kept me very engaged so far. Whether these experiences are in the community I am from, or am a guest in, or in my own domestic environment there seems to be endless stories of life’s trajectories to explore.
What or who influences you? Is there something you find particularly inspiring? New Zealand photography would be the quick answer, although understanding how it fits and contributes to the international scene is also very interesting. There has been such a depth of great imagery made in this country and much of it is rather under viewed/exhibited and so coming across a great print or book/catalog of images is always very exciting and inspiring.