Mela and Gram Hilleard live and work in the heart of London in a studio/flat converted from an old Post Office. It’s become for them a kingdom of its own, an island on island; a base for the creative collaboration of two artists – kindred spirits brought up in different worlds of East and West. East meaning Poland and west meaning South London!

They shun the main stream art world, preferring integrity over commercialism, an approach which is slowly bearing fruit as their film “At Dawn the Flowers Open the Gates of Paradise”, which had its premier during the Edinburgh International Film Festival, has now won the prize for the Best United Kingdom Experimental Short Film at the London International Motion Picture Awards.

The film also shown as part of an installation during their Studio opening was written and directed by Mela, whilst Gram was the Production, Costume, Poster Designer and Director’s Assistant.

Mela and Gram Hilleard, photo: Paulina Korobkiewicz

Who is this ‘Kochanie & Kochanie’ and what brought about your studio opening?

Mela:  We decided to open our studio with the New Year to cancel out the negative energy of Brexit. No compromise just honesty, quality and intimacy. Share our work in the space where it all came from. Guide people slowly through our world, one by one like in an art performance.

Gram: Besides Brexit the other limit in our reality is the shrinking of our London by the flood of generic places caused by gentrification; what I call ‘Blandification’. This place was once a Post Office and has been created from scratch; the space on its own is part of the art, it creates a sanctuary which works well for us because we share the same aesthetic, even though we work in different mediums.

Mela: The world seems to be in an overwhelming crisis and there is a limit as to what we can do. So we have to start from ourselves and have decided to change things with ‘art & love’ and from this came the name of our artistic collaboration – ‘Kochanie & Kochanie’.

photo by Mela Hilleard

Can you elaborate more on these projects showing here?

Gram: The unique light in the front room affects me and I always prefer to work in the morning when he sun is first coming up. At the moment, I’m working on a project I call ‘The Spaces Between’ seen along here with a selection from the two projects which influenced it; ‘Developers Up Yours’ and ‘Fragments of my Memories’.

‘Fragments of my Memories’ is a series oil on mixed media panels depicting the old cafes, signs, buildings and shops of my peripheral vision as a Londoner, that were on the edge of disappearing forever. Painted in many layers and featuring metallic surfaces that convey the strata of past lives in the city.

‘Developers Up Yours’ In this project I photographed London in its grim reality and used the language of the ever authoritarian developers and estate agents to produce new London postcards.

‘The Spaces Between’ Comprises of eleven panels depicting early 18th century churches and their defined spaces that have always attracted the same types of people though out the centuries. Those looking for sanctuary from the city, the spiritual, the homeless, the lost, the silent watchers etc. Painted in many layers the panels echo the slowly weathering stones that carry the vibrations of past lives that give each place a unique energy.

Two art work and Two art space, photo by Mela Hilleard

Mela: In this Studio Opening I am sharing my short film “At Dawn the Flowers Open the Gates of Paradise” in the bedroom where I wrote the actual screenplay. It’s a drama about losing yourself into the feeling of love. I directed this film and Gram did the production, costume, poster design and was also the director’s assistant.

My first inspiration to write the screenplay was from working in a London hotel. I was fascinated by the illusion of that place and the disjointed worlds of employees and guests. Hotels as a ‘Tower of Babel’, the intersection of people on the way from different parts of the world in ’Hotel-city’ that is London on its own.

The idea was to screen the film in the room of the protagonist, Akiko; creating her world from the objects belonging to her as used in the production design of the film. I want to extend the screen, reflect with mirror, and make it three-dimensional. Create the feeling that she just left; keep dust, natural lighting, bringing together the sound of the city outside the window and in the film.

The ceiling is covered with Akiko’s photographs of the hotel guests used bed sheets, which like sculpture printed by peoples sleeping and sleeplessness from the previous night. The bed sheets themselves like shrouds, reflecting the most intimate moments. Within the space are a few important objects: a desk, two shelves and the film inspiration, a bed – as a vehicle through all our life.


Have you had any fedback from the people who came to your installation?

Gram: Everyone who visited our Studio Opening added something to the story, it was like a dialogue. Afterwards our audience surprised us with their comments telling us what they experienced from their perspective.



At dawn flowers open the gates of paradise, production stils

From this event what do you expext the future will hold?

Mela: The next stage for our Studio Opening is to share our projects with a wider audience and recreate in the gallery space what we already gave birth to in our studio – let it go into the yet unknown world. We are looking for some curators, art collectors, galleries, art festivals to accommodate us, as it’s time for us to start new projects…

Gram: At the moment I am translating my ‘The Spaces Between’ project into a film on which Mela has been the cinematographer. Beyond that I want to do more crossover projects of film and painting, based on the subject of memories to break down what I see as, polarised creative audiences.

Mela: For me, it is the feature-length documentary “HOME” – as an attempt to answer one of the most important questions in the life of every human being: what means home? The film is inspired by seven years film and photo materials from lives of the residents in one of the houses in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London. It focuses on the subject of the family; searching for identity, emigration, Polish-English ties, death, the circle of life and rebirth of nature.



Gram Hilleard is a London artist/photographer and filmmaker whose work deals with the man-made landscape. He graduated from the London College of Printing and had previously studied photography and exhibition design. His most recent exhibition in 2015 combined photography and graphics in the form of postcards to juxtapose the language of developers with the actuality of the city and is featured on the ‘Guardian’ newspaper website. In 2017 he worked on the film ‘At Dawn the Flowers Open the Gates of paradise’ as Directors Assistant, Production, Costume and Poster Designer. The film was shown in the 2018 at the 72nd edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, whilst in the same year his own short film ‘The Way Home’ premiered at the Darkroom Festival, London.

photo by Mela Hilleard




My first touch with art was via theatre when I was studying at the Wroclaw Theatre Academy in Poland. I was expressing my sensitivity by the language of film, as an actress and also present on the other side of the camera; Working as an assistant director, camera operator, screenplay and adaptations co-author. I received Best Actress Award for “Double Portrait” at the 20th International Koszalin Debut Film Festival and the film was awarded during the 26th Gdynia Polish Film Festival and received Pegaz Prize for best film. After spending four years on a film journey through Asia I started to take pictures and when I returned to Warsaw, I decided to deepen this knowledge at the European Academy of Photography. I moved to London which become my home and embarked on a long-term film project called “HOME”. I have been a student of MA filmmaking at the London Film School and my graduation script “At Dawn the Flowers Open the Gates of Paradise” working title “Blankets of love” received a Special Mention from the Jury in Milano Film Festival. The finished film had its premiere during the 72nd edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival as part of the Main Program: “Shorts: Dream Images”

Source: CONTEMPORARY LYNX art magazine

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