When we meet artist Lani Mitchell she’s sitting in an Australian-run cafe, Two Hands, in SoHo, Manhattan. Mitchell is an abstract painter. She creates large-scale paintings, priced well outside the budget of most people her age. With no interest in being a “starving artist”, Mitchell knew that if she were to pursue a career, she would have to leave her comfort zone. She has now sold more than 90 paintings to collectors in Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and New York since her Artistry Galleries Exhibition in 2009, and a sold-out show in 2014 called SKIN.

Following the success of SKIN, Mitchell moved to New York and settled into a dreamy Williamsburg studio overlooking the East River. It was there in the thick of winter that she created her latest series, CHRYSALIS, and was quickly invited to exhibit at Parsons (the New School for Design).

Among the babble of Australian accents in the cafe, and the hum of Manhattan traffic, Mitchell discusses CHRYSALISand how it reveals her transition and growth, both artistically and personally.

Broadsheet: You’re an abstract painter in a time when a lot of artists are moving towards new media and technology. Why this medium? And why now?

Lani Mitchell: I was told painting wasn’t fashionable or trendy when I was at art school, which is probably why I felt so alien there and barely went – I worked in my garage at home, with my dad and brother. My dad let me destroy the front of our house, while my mother lamented that I wasn’t a mathematician. Dad’s palm trees were splattered in paint, so was his car, but he endorsed me and encouraged me to believe in my instincts. Feeling something was paramount. Painting made me feel, and I hope my paintings evoke that response in others.

BS: You left Melbourne almost immediately after your incredibly successful show, SKIN. What was your motivation for that?

LM: The challenge of the world’s most vibrant and overwhelming city, and arguably the epicentre of the art world, meant a potentially dramatic learning curve; not to mention a sink-or-swim experience. Without moving out of my comfort zone, I tend to stagnate, so the enormity of the challenge became compulsive.

BS: How does your experience of making art in Melbourne differ from New York?

LM: Melbourne is my hometown. It’s really comfortable and it meant a gentle beginning. I had the luxury of space in Melbourne; I paint large-scale, and on the floor, which worked well in my Balaclava studio, but it was really hard to find a studio here because New York is so space poor. SKINreflected Melbourne for me – my very social and playful lifestyle; friends would come in and out and bring me coffee and sit with me while I worked. Whereas CHRYSALIS is more pulled back and quiet, which reflects my experience of being totally alone in a New York winter.

BS: The harshness of New York winter is really resonant in CHRYSALIS, was that a conscious decision when creating the series?

LM: CHYSALIS is about metamorphosis, which has always appealed to me. It was not a conscious theme, but something I realised after creating the work, something that I felt I experienced through navigating a foreign climate and city.

First published for Broadsheet

Photo by Alexander Sproule-Lagos

Self portrait, polaroid by MISO

Interview with Stanislava Pinchuk aka MISO, Ukraine born, Melbourne and Tokyo based artist. 

When Stanislava Pinchuk aka MISO speaks, she requires you to lean in, her voice is soft but her words ring loud and resonate with any creative soul. She embraces the term “artist” but is quick to correct the romanticised image, joking that today’s artists aren’t exactly “sitting around smoking opium, having muses come and go, banging out a painting and then dying tragically”. Stanislava certainly doesn’t fit that description, however, she says, “there’s not a lot to my life outside of my art practice. Nothing is more rewarding for me than what I make.” Considering Stanislava as someone who embodies her art, working in various mediums from photography to home tattooing, we asked her to share some thoughts on the concept of ‘life imitating art’.

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Photograph and tattoo by MISO

“Sometimes I feel like I belong to other people, clients, galleries, waiting lists. Right now it feels a little like that. It’s hectic, but I never feel like a puppet on a string. I guess I’m a little bratty about being told what to do, so I’ll never do something that feels contrived.” ‘Tis the nature of being a working artist, and Stanislava is beyond grateful for her opportunities and the support she receives from galleries and buyers. “I don’t want to be a purist about it – the support of other people means the world. It’s a privilege that I’m so grateful for. Collectors know that I’m not out buying Lamborghinis. I think even the basic level of support is really, really amazing.”

Stanislava’s studio is in Melbourne’s Nicholas Building, a building that dates back to 1926, and holds a rich history of artists past. One resident in particular holds a special place in her heart, Vali Myers (1930-2003), an Australian visionary artist, dancer and boho babe of the 50s and 60s. To be in Vali’s very studio has been a humbling experience for Stanislava, who is often visited by Vali’s friends – “You know they’re going to be your kind of people”.

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Photograph by Eduardo Fernàndez-Cerra. Vali Myers 1930-2003

Stanislava’s career as an artist stems completely from a labor of love “I didn’t go to art school, so I feel like I’m always catching up. I go to galleries, and read a lot. I actually have a philosophy degree, I guess I wanted to learn what to paint about, rather than how to paint”. Starting out as a street artist at the age of 14, Stanislava was already a working artist by the time she was 18 and contemplating a university degree. “I find the concept of grading artwork strange, you have to make work to suit your teachers and peers, not for you. My work has never been graded and I am forever excited to make art. My friends who went to art school would skip class, smoke rollies and complain about their print assignments. I mean it’s such a great opportunity for me to live and study in this country, I feel like I’ve won the lottery… but, I guess it’s hard to know what you want at that age. I’m lucky I did.”

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Works by MISO

The concept of ‘life imitating art’ can be as simple as seeing something you like and creating a lifestyle from that. Stanislava admits that “at the end of the day, the people I look up to most are people who, to me, were really ‘one thing’ with what they made. Like Vali. She lived her work, spent a great deal of her life homeless and still never sold her work, if she felt the work wasn’t as appreciated as it was by her. It just seemed like she was beyond of time and place, outside of people, totally one with her work. I’m still really touched by that. People like Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, Louise Bourgeois… they’ve always really stood out to me because of that.”

Stanislava’s defining attribute is her modesty. Her humility and ability to connect with others has proved fruitful, which she knowingly owes to “putting out positive vibes” and respecting her practice. “The best piece of advice I ever received was to take my practice as my best friend. If what you create is good, it will happen for you. Everything else, industry climbing… none of that stuff matters if you’re invested in what you do – I think people really sense that above anything else. And nothing else is as rewarding.”

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Photo by Madeline Ellerm 

They say ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ and Stanislava’s interpretation of ‘life imitating art’ is her ode to the artists she admires; people who created work that provoked and inspired, and those who lived their work and ‘became’ art themselves.

First published for Buffalo Milk