Mitch Cairns (b. 1984, lives Sydney) 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. His painting is neither tough nor trivial. He makes figure-ground relationships dance and language dance in the realm of poetry.
Cairns was awarded the 2017 Archibald Prize for his portrait of fellow artist and partner, Agatha Gothe-Snape. 2017 was the fourth time that he has been a finalist in the high-profile prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The winning 2017 portrait was acquired by Monash Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, while the runner-up portraits of Reg Richardson (2014) and Peter Powditch (2015) were acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, and the Art Gallery of NSW, respectively.
Cairns has been invited to curate the 2019 Primavera: Young Australian Artist exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Primavera is the MCA’s annual exhibition of young Australian artists aged 35 and under. Since 1992, the Primavera series has showcased the works of artists in the early stages of their career.
He has been awarded a number of prizes and residencies as well as being a finalist in several prize exhibitions including, The Archibald Prize (2017, 2015, 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 Arthur Guy Memorial Prize (2017); Geelong Contemporary Art Prize (2017, 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).
His work is held in the collections of the National Art School, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Artbank, Deloitte, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (donation from Ergas Collection), the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, and Wollongong University Art Collection.
Mitch Cairns is alumnus of the National Art School, Sydney, where he currently sits on the Academic Board.