Pillowtalk: Lani Mitchell November 25 2015
This week’s Pillow Talk comes from Lani Mitchell, a bright young Melbourne artist who we’ve been seriously crushing on. Her new work conveys a “meditative natural oasis and a dreamlike state of infinite possibilities”, sounds perfectly dreamy. We get cosy in bed at Lani’s studio, featuring some amazing large-scale paintings from her upcoming show, Helm.
You have a show coming up in early December, what was the inspiration behind Helm?
After living in New York for the last eight months, it was a camping trip with my boyfriend through the west coast of America. He'd been home in Australia while I was exhibiting in the states, so we were reunited on this trip, I was absolutely ecstatic – It was specifically the natural beauty and brilliance of the rock formations at Yosemite National Park that served as the intimate inspiration for my new series ‘Helm’. These vast and huge rock faces, informed the palette - creamy magnolia, stained whites, slate greys and gloss blacks. Barefooted we climbed and ran along the white rocks, yelling out and laughing, our voices echoing down these ancient beauties - It was truly magical.
You mentioned your artist residency in New York, what is different about here and there?
When I stepped off the plane returning home to Australia, I was surprised by how much slower it all felt. The air felt cleaner and the space seemed so great. New York operates on a completely different level. It is frantic and frenetic and intoxicating and, ultimately, alien. It is manic-depressive but multifaceted in its capacity to excite and exhaust. Melbourne is deliberate and easy going by contrast.
Were you exposed to art at a young age? Do you remember the first artistic piece you encountered?
The first art that I was exposed to were the huge large-scale abstractions by the husband of a family friend, Craig Gough. Several of his large, dramatic works filled my home, and continue to be a source of fascination for me as they were when I grew up. They warped my perception of what I consider a regular size painting. I remember being completely mesmerised by their vastness, the thick oil paint that you could smell if you put your nose close enough and the subtlety of beautiful tones.
What does it mean to you to be a young artist?
I think you've got to treat your job like any other - to put in the hours at the studio everyday. To actively seek out that spark of inspiration. To be ok with being dead broke and then overwhelmed with sudden influxes of money. To be fine with the inconsistency of such a life - to live to paint, not paint to live.
My favourite quote springs to mind by one of my all time heroes, Australian artist, Brett Whiteley. It's always reminded of the what being a young artist feels like. A lot of the time l feel like I'm navigating it totally blind - only intuitively.
“Everything is such a stoned state - I walk around with a bunch of violets in my hand and a sledgehammer and a grain of sand in my head. I am happy.” - Brett Whiteley
In the studio I'm my most calm - I get swept up in the joy of creating art, mixing huge quantities of paint, to pour on vast surfaces of canvas. I don't know how creating a life as a full-time artist is going to turn out but I don't mind so much - there is no other path for me.
If you could express your current mood in an image, what would it look like?
Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait with Cropped Hair, 1940.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
'Gamble everything for love, if you are a true human being. If not leave this gathering. Half-heartedness doesn’t reach into majesty.' Rumi
Your work is so dreamy, do you ever read into dreams? If so, what was your most recent vivid dream?
I have a recurring dream. I dangle my feet in the pool during a heatwave. It's boiling hot outside and I am so relieved to be able to immerse my body in water. The water is psychedelic – full of beautiful rainbow colours. The palms in my garden gently sway, the sky is all white, caught up in a sort of dust storm. I slowly slide in. I notice rainbow Shark fins, with this I panick. I kick my feet in horror - this arouses the sharks, they quickly form a circle around me. I'm sure i'll be eaten alive. I floated on the surface of the water – awaiting my fate. I wake.
Favourite 'dreamy' movie?