Mitch Cairns

Poetics and Pragmatics

Mitch Cairns’ paintings, drawings, cartoons and works on paper are underscored by both an intensive studio practice and an unashamed pragmatism.

By Dan Rule SEP 2015

Sydney artist Mitch Cairns isn’t one for hyperbole. A conversation with the 31-year-old – whose striking portrait of senior artist Peter Powditch was runner-up in this year’s Archibald – plays out in refreshingly matter-of-fact terms. Thematic, narrative and conceptual strands are just that: conduits to the real business of making and clarifying an image.

But that’s not to suggest that complexity is lacking from what is an at once wide-ranging and tightly focused visual language. Across his short but prolific career, Cairns has embraced a visual logic that has taken in modes as economically expressive as the cartoon, the text work and the linocut, all the way to his meticulously rendered and faceted paintings, which seem to effortlessly zigzag between aesthetic and formal elements that reference Synthetic Cubism, Constructivism and Futurism.

Having graduated Sydney’s National Art School in 2006, Cairns spent time as Adam Cullen’s studio assistant whilst steadily building his own career, which has seen him partake in a string of solo and group shows, including his highly regarded exhibitions at The Commercial in Sydney, Dip or Skinny Dip (2014) and FINCHES (2015). Amongst it all, his art has radiated with a vibrancy, poeticism and quiet sense of evocation that sees it playfully sidle its references without ever becoming bogged down or bound to them. VAULT spoke with Cairns while he took time out from working on The Reader’s Voice, his forthcoming project space show at ... Subscribe to read this article in full

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