Collectors love: Mitch Cairns - Art Collector

Issue 63, January - March 2013

This profile appeared in the Collectors love feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2013.

Mitch Cairns, Poor Mum, 2011. Oil on linen, 51.5 x 47.5cm. Courtesy: the artist and Breenspace, Sydney

With an economy of palette and line, Mitch Cairns painted his way to one of the standout commercial shows of 2012. Held at Breenspace in Sydney in May, Bass Principles comprised a suite of eight oil paintings and six framed edition prints of cartoons. The body of work drew inspiration from two short courses – one at the Tom Bass Sculpture School and the other the Alan Moir Advanced Cartoon Classes – along with Cairns’s long standing concerns with class, sexual relations, humour and the history of art.

While the exhibition was the result of two years of steady toil in the studio, it was quick to sell. Breenspace’s director Sally Breen reports: “The exhibition was a sell-out. We sold many of Mitch’s paintings during the preview and on the opening weekend. The exhibition sold out by week two. We then went on to sell paintings from the same suite in the stockroom over the duration of the exhibition.” Prices for the exhibition ranged from $1,300 to $3,000 for paintings and $400 for framed edition prints.

As well as proving popular with local private collectors, the largest work,
One Half a Woman’s Waist Line Repeated – a simple figure study of the curve of a woman’s waistline painted at abstract, rhythmic intervals – was quickly snaffled by Artbank. The art rental agency is a long-term supporter of Cairns’s work.

The exhibition also met with critical acclaim.
One Half of a Woman’s Waist Line Repeated and Poor Mum, a sensitive portrait of a woman in her later years, were selected for the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, administered by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The scholarship will allow Cairns to further his education with a three-month residency at the CiteĢ Internationale des Arts in Paris and also includes a $25,000 grant.

On the future, Breen comments: “There have been many enquiries about Mitch’s paintings and also requests from collectors to be placed on a wait list for new works as they emerge from the studio.” Recently settled into a new studio and armed with two sketchbooks full of studies from recent travels, Cairns is already working on his next body of work. With a show at Breenspace in mid 2013 and his Paris residency booked in after that, Cairns is undoubtedly a young artist to continue to watch.


Susan Gibb



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