My ART | Artists: Solomon Mortimer & Zahra Killeen-Chance

Artists: Solomon Mortimer & Zahra Killeen-Chance

Artists: Solomon Mortimer & Zahra Killeen-Chance

What do you do?

Zahra: Solomon is a photographer, particularly interested in small run artist books and analog printing, and I am a choreographic artist. We regularly collaborate together. Currently we are lucky to be in beautiful Whanganui for five months, undertaking the Tylee Cottage Residency through the Sarjeant Art Gallery. We arrived here with the intention of undertaking a rather focused period of production on both collaborative and solo projects however the current situation with the lock-downs has meant that we are also enjoying a lot of family time and space to think.

What images are pinned to your studio wall?

Solomon: We have been enjoying printing on both a grey and a cream toned 45gsm super thin newsprint stock, via the poor desktop laser printer in our lounge, and then blue-tacking these prints up around the house. So far it seems to be a fair pick ‘n mix of Frieda poking her bellybutton, Zahra dancing on a hill with objects and various abstractions of people and places. 

What was the first artwork that made an impact on you?

Solomon: I was very fortunate to grow up in a creative household with my father being a painter, and was dragged along on regular trips to gallery openings and museums. I remember being regularly surprised by what I encountered there. One show I remember well was Tony De Lautour’s paintings on envelopes; they were very exciting to me at the time. It was not until later that the immensity of photographs came crashing down around me.

Zahra: I remember a dance work that I saw by the Rambert Dance Company called Rooster choreographed by Christopher Bruce at the Aotea Centre in 2001. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, the way the dancers moved on the stage was phenomenal, especially to my 13-year-old self. I can still see an image of the men dancing as roosters in my mind’s eye. I started listening to The Rolling Stones and have a lasting enjoyment of dancing to them.

Who is your ideal studio buddy?

Solomon: Alas our studio has become Frieda’s bedroom, so the darkroom I built behind the house is now my studio. A buddy would be a squeeze but the odd visitor who likes the dim golden brown safelight and lots of chemical tray agitation is always welcome. It’s a tight balance in my dark shed between the meditative whir of the extractor fan with slowly rinsing paper and the high emotional tension of seeing new images for the first time. So any visitor has to be someone who enjoys sharing the energy of what really is a very solitary pursuit.

Zahra: Currently I am lucky to be rehearsing at the Gonville Hall, through the generosity of the Gonville Centre for Urban Research. My main studio buddies, besides myself, have been Solomon and Frieda (who is always up for a dance and a run around the hall). There’s something very comforting about occupying the space of an old hall. It holds so many traces of its past histories that keep me company and slowly become familiar as I move across the floorboards.

What are you reading?

Solomon: Fortunately before lockdown I was most generously gifted a pretty complete set of early Photo-Forum magazines (70’s-80’s). So these have been keeping me highly entertained with some great ‘letters to the author,’ exhibition reviews and of course some fantastic portfolios of images.

Zahra: ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bassel Van Der Kolk

What did you learn at art school?

Solomon: I was very lucky to be educated and advised by a series of artists who were all very strong in their convictions and craft. Maybe it was the adage of being an artist because you really have to be, not because it’s a good career choice.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?

Zahra: I can imagine myself doing some kind of body therapeutic work or being a sculpture. I love working with my body and hands, as this is the way I learn and process the world around me.

Best lockdown kitchen recipe?

Solomon: I am a huge custard fan, and have started improvising large pie recipes using various available ingredients. Last nights version was a sheet of puff pastry on the bottom, pre cooked with a mashed buttery apple layer (including plenty of cinnamon and a banana that needed to be used) then the thick layer of custard with plenty of vanilla and some honey to sweeten. Then topped with a layer of thin sliced apple with coconut and a light cinnamon dusting. Baked and cooled. It won’t last long though as it is too easy to eat.


September 2021.