Mitch Cairns (b. 1984) is a figurative painter and cartoonist with an eye for abstraction and notational use of line. He whittles away extraneous detail and gets down to basic libidinal pleasures of the vernacular in a reduced palette. Often only two colours and a conversation of tone. His painting is neither tough nor trivial. He makes figure-ground relationships dance and language dance in the realm of poetry. Eroticism in his work, never far from the subtly coaxed surface, sits on a continuum of the colloquial coupled with humour. Body parts might get played for gags in the cartooning end of things but there is also a deeper reverence for the human body and sex. Cairns uses paint to point out how lived experience is quickly regurgitated as idiomatic expression. While previously, the motif of cigarette smoke filled the backgrounds of his canvases (Cairns’ sfumato, time without lines or hard edges like the studio time he so relishes) recent works are characterised by a more urgent cubo-futurist faceting.Read More
Cairns completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in painting at the National Art School in Sydney in 2006.
Cairns was invited by curator Linda Michael to present a solo project at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne in November 2015. The Reader’s Voice is Cairns first solo exhibition in a public institution, a large new group of collages, a bronze and substantial new artist book that documents the work were produced for the exhibition.
Cairns has had two solo exhibitions at The Commercial Gallery: his first exhibition of cartoons to accompany the launch of his book, Dip or Skinny Dip (2014), and a major new series of paintings, FINCHES (2015). In 2014, he produced a Drawing Wall commission, Studio Leak, for Shepparton Art Museum (curated by Elise Routledge). He presented three solo exhibitions at BREENSPACE, Sydney, before its closure in 2013 (2012, 2010, 2008). He has held solo exhibitions with TCB inc., Melbourne (2014), KALIMANRAWLINS, Melbourne (2013), BOXCOPY, Brisbane (2012), MOP Projects, Sydney (2006, 2007, 2008) and Locksmith Project Space, Sydney (2008). And a two-person exhibition at Society, Sydney, with Matthew Tumbers, curated by Susan Gibb (2012).
Selected group exhibitions include Outside Thoughts, a group exhibition with Emily Floyd, Darren Sylvester and Danie Mellor, curated by Wes Hill, at Contemporary Art Tasmania (March 2015), RELATIONSHIPPAL with Tim Silver and Susan Jacobs at BREENSPACE, Sydney (2013), Alpha Romeo, with Christopher Hanrahan and Nigel Milsom, curated by Matthys Gerber, at Peloton, Sydney (2010), They call them Pirates out here, curated by David Elliot, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2010); What I think of when I think about dancing, curated by Lisa Havilah and Susan Gibb, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney (2009); Reality Check, curated by Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Hazelhurst Regional Art Gallery, Sydney (2009), The Shilo Project, curated by Chris McAuliffe, Ian Potter Museum, Melbourne (2009) and I am a Good Boy, curated by Elise Routledge, Firstdraft, Sydney (2008).
Cairns was runner-up in the 2014 Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery New South Wales with his portrait of philanthropist, Reg Richardson. He has been awarded a number of prizes and residencies as well as being a finalist in several prize exhibitions including, The Archibald Prize (2014, 2013), The Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship (2012) which included a residency at the Cité internationale des arts, Paris (2013) and the Linden Art Prize (winner postcard prize), Linden Contemporary, Melbourne (2012). He has been a finalist in the Geelong Contemporary Art Prize (2014), the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize (2013, 2010), the Fishers Ghost Art Prize, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney (2011), the Helen Lampriere Traveling Scholarship, Artspace, Sydney (2009, 2007, 2006), the John Olsen Drawing Prize (2005), the Gruner Landscape Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (2004, 2003).
Between 2005 and 2007, Cairns was studio assistant to the late Adam Cullen.
Cairns co-founded ‘The Cosmic Battle for your Heart’ with Kelly Doley, Brian Fuata and Agatha Gothe-Snape, an artist-run space based in Sydney (2009–11), a survey of which, called Eastern Seaboard, was exhibited at Artspace, Sydney, curated by Reuben Keehan and Melanie Oliver (2011).
His work is held in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Artbank, Deloitte, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (Ergas Collection), the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, and Wollongong University Art Collection.
Text courtesy The Commercial.