Cairns sets up a narrative where the declarative gesture of graphic intent offers meaning as it is diffused. His images arrive fully formed in the mind, but their coming into being is performed in the studio with resistance.
—Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Mitch Cairns (b. 1984, l. Gadigal Country/Sydney) is an artist whose distinctive painting practice balances a quickness and playfulness of improvised pictorial concepts with an unparalleled ability with his oil paint medium, rare in an artist of his generation. The surprising pairing of wit and discipline provides paint outcomes that are at once thin and flat but extraordinarily complex and subtle. For his subject matter, Cairns recounts a poetics of domestic/familial life where love, banality, self-reflection, eroticism, melancholy, anxiety provide ample image-ideas. On top of this foundation of the everyday, he builds homages to artist and literary heroes and other enthusiasms. Cairns often uses text as material for his work indebted to concrete poetry and spilling over to printmaking and collage, the domain of his extensive production on paper.

Cairns was awarded the Archibald Prize (2017) and the Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship (2012). In 2022, Cairns was the judge of the Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship and he curated Primavera: Young Australian Artists in 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Cairns has produced a number of artist books and serial publications: Pebble (2021—present, with Mitchel Cumming), Selected Scuffs (2021), The Reader's Voice (2015) and Dip or Skinny Dip (2014). He has founded/curated two exhibition programs as an adjunct to his studio activities: ANKLES (2018—2021) and Cellar door (2023—present), both Sydney.


Key exhibitions

Key readings



Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery of South Australia
Heide Museum of Modern Art
Monash University Museum of Art
Murray Art Museum Albury
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
National Portrait Gallery
Wollongong University Art Collection


» View available works by Mitch Cairns