MPavilion (24 01 24)

Meet the Collaborator: Lani Mitchell, Life Drawing with Lani

Image courtesy of Lani Mitchell

Lani Mitchell is an Australian visual artist interested in themes of womanhood, femininity and power. Since 2016, Mitchell has been hosting life drawing classes at unique locations around the world, including Collingwood House and Cam’s Kiosk in Melbourne and the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.

For MPavilion 10, Lani is presenting a series of three life drawing sessions — offering participants a chance to create and contemplate under the shade of Tadao Ando’s pavilion. As we prepare to launch the series on Tuesday 12 March, we spoke to Lani to learn more about her work as an artist and a lifelong creative.

What is your earliest memory of painting?

I remember being 16, painting in the garage where my dad would smoke balinese clove cigarettes and offer unrequested critiques on my paintings. This isn’t necessarily my first memory of painting, but it is the way I remember my career as an artist beginning.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I knew I always wanted to paint. I always wanted to be in the arts but my focus on painting started somewhat by happenstance. When I was 18, an art dealer visited my family home to see my dad’s sculptures but he instead kept asking about my paintings which were hung all around the house. My dad’s meeting with the art dealer became my meeting, and I was offered representation and sold my first painting the next week.

You grew up in Melbourne, but you’ve lived in New York and Los Angeles. As someone who has traveled widely, what is something unique to Melbourne that you can’t find anywhere else in the world?

In my family, there is a running joke that if you can’t find me, I’m at Botanic Gardens. I know other countries have beautiful gardens, but for me nothing compares to the Botanic Gardens we have. In LA you’d have to pay to have access to a park like that. It’s my favourite place in Melbourne, it’s so beautiful.

Where did the idea of Life Drawing with Lani come from?

I started hosting Life Drawing in 2016 when I came back home from New York. A life drawing class I used to attend wasn’t running anymore. I was living in a big warehouse loft and I thought if I couldn’t access a class I should just host one myself. So I did, and I loved seeing all my friends making art, so I’ve continued doing pop-ups whenever I had the time. At least once a year. My painting practice is a very solo one. I prefer to work alone in the studio, so it’s a nice change to have a community around art and to provide a place where friends can gather and be creative together, regardless of their level of experience. I’ve made so many good friends from hosting these sessions.

What excites you about Tadao Ando’s design for MPavilion 10? How do you envision Ando’s space complementing your life drawing sessions?

My three brothers and I went to Tokyo in 2016; that was the first time I became aware of Tadao Ando’s work, after visiting 21_21 Design Sight. So when I was told that he was the Architect for MPavilion 10, I felt so honoured to be able to host Life Drawing in such an incredible space. It goes without saying his work is outstanding.

When I decided to host my own life drawing, I only wanted to do it if I could do it in an elevated way. I wanted to escape the traditional life drawing classroom setting, with the harsh fluorescent lighting. I wanted to host life drawing in beautiful settings, with curated playlists, foliage, flowers and warm, buttery lighting. A place that makes someone inspired to be artistic. So hosting these sessions in a Tadao Ando structure sets a very high standard.

Who — or what — are you inspired by?

Like most people,  I can be inspired by simple things, like a beautiful magnolia flower. I have been obsessively watching Eric Rohmer films lately and re-reading Eve Babitz. The it girl of 70’s L.A, her work makes sitting in rush hour traffic on Sunset Boulevard romantic. However, the thing that inspires me the most are the people I’m surrounded by. I feel lucky because I have so many friends who are so impressive and interesting in their own way.

My brother, Callum, for example, launched his perfume label Perdrisât in 2022.  He creates all the formulas and perfumes by hand, in small batches. We’ve been working on the brand together and seeing his label grow so quickly, with an overwhelming level of positive feedback, has been so inspiring.  I attribute all my new friends in LA to Perdrisât. I have literally been chased down the street by people asking me what fragrance I’m wearing. Before I leave the house now, I make sure I’m doused in it.

How do you stay creative?

I think for me to stay creative, I have to stay curious and open to different forms of creative expression and not judge my process. When I’m painting, I remind myself that nobody has to see these paintings, that I can destroy the ones that don’t work. I like to take myself seriously enough to call myself an artist and treat it as my job, but not too seriously that I limit my own process — I allow myself to remain playful.

What is something that you do every day?  

I talk to my family.

What is a philosophy that you live and work by? 

Show up.

You don’t know what’s going to happen if you show up but you know nothing’s going to happen if you don’t.

As we celebrate a decade of MPavilion with MPavilion 10, do you have any standout memories from the pavilion?

When my friend Pete Baxter was curating the artists to perform at MPavilion, my brother, Rhys’ band Mouth Tooth opened for New York folk singer Kath Bloom. We all love her music so much, so it was such a sweet experience, especially for my brother who was performing.

Over three Tuesdays in March, Lani Mitchell will be presenting free, one-hour life drawing sessions at the pavilion. Classes are free, and materials are provided, but bookings are required.

Life Drawing Classes with Lani Mitchell

Wominjeka (Welcome). We acknowledge the people of the Eastern Kulin Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which MPavilion stands. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present – and recognise they have been creating, telling stories and caring for Country for thousands of generations.

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