Painting was something Lani Mitchell always did, yet didn’t actively pursue… at first. The 26-year-old studied visual arts and arts, majoring in English literature and painting at Monash University. ‘My Mum wrote in and applied for me. I never had any intentions of going to university; I just wanted to act,’ explains Lani, whose father is a professional actor. Her Dad also dabbled in sculpture, which is how Lani’s paintings were first picked up by art dealer who happened to be visiting their family home.
After breaking into the market aged 19, and staging her first solo exhibition four years later, Lani set out for New York City. She’d visited before and had been fortunate to meet her favourite painter, Max Gimblet. ‘He told me to come back after I’d finished university and he’d mentor me,’ she explains. ‘I went back, only to have him tell me that he wouldn’t let me waste my time collecting his sandwiches. He encouraged me to get my own studio, my own interns, and commit to my art. So that’s what I did!’
Following a year away (including successful exhibitions at the prestigious Parson’s School of Design), Lani felt it was time to return to Australia. Though she still heads overseas regularly, her art practice is currently based out of a Richmond warehouse space. ‘I work on paintings on the floor and paint as many at a time as I can fit on the ground – 20 in my current studio,’ she says.
These latest works form her exhibition, Kind, which opens tonight at The Metro Gallery. Lani’s concept emerged through one particular encounter over many drinks in Barcelona. ‘Talking to a new Swedish friend about what we wanted from partners and needed for our own sense of self, I realised the importance of nurture,’ explains Lani. ‘The realisation that I wanted someone to make me feel completely safe and nurtured inspired the central orb motif in my new paintings.’