Vale Mirka Mora (1928 – 2018)

Written by: Dr Eugene Barilo von Reisberg
We were also saddened to learn of the passing of another nonagenarian, the iconic Australian artist and extraordinary Melburnian, Mirka Mora.

She emerged, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Europe, arriving from France with her husband, Georges, in 1951, where she proceeded to reinvigorate the Melbourne art scene with her humour, wit, natural bonhomie and enthralling physical allure. The Mora’s cafés became not only the mecca for artists, art aficionados and the local bohème, but also an exhibition space that launched and provided an ongoing support for Australian and émigré artists. Mirka and Georges’ professional and personal friendship with the renowned collectors and art patrons, John and Sunday Reed, contributed significantly towards the evolution of modern Australian art, initially through the Moras involvement in the Contemporary Arts Society, and, later, through the establishment of Tolarno Gallery at the eponymous hotel in St Kilda, which became an important exhibition venue for some of the most innovative and experimental artists of the era.

While assisting fellow artists in a myriad of ways, Mirka had forged an independent artistic practice of her own. She had suffused the boldness of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse with the imagination of Marc Chagall and Marie Laurencin to create her own inimitable style. Fluid lines and bright colours conjure up imaginary worlds populated by wide-eyed children, fantastical beasts and exotic flowers. The innocent whimsicality and dream-like exuberance of her works explores, among others, universal themes of love and loss.

Mirka’s ability to translate her style and iconography into a variety of media was central to her artistic evolution. Mirka’s celebrated dolls made her two-dimensional creatures come alive. They allowed the artist to implement within her oeuvre her interest in the tactile qualities of fabrics, embroidery, and handwork. She did not hesitate to share her interest in doll-making with others, and conducted regular classes transmitting her passion for art marking to professionals and amateurs alike.

Her artistic explorations went beyond the confines of paintings, drawings, and soft sculpture. Mirka’s bright colours and inimitable iconography splashed out into public spaces—literally—in the shape of iconic murals and mosaics, designs for theatre decorations, costumes, ceramics and a clothing range—which combined ultimately to make ‘Mirka Mora’ a household name and one of the most recognisable Australian artists.

The vibrant colours and pulsating energy of her images were reflected more than amply in Mirka’s ebullient personality, which became publicly known and loved through her innumerable appearances on television, exhibition openings, and various art events where she held the public enthralled with her perceptive observations, humorous recollections, frank outspokenness, and, at times, outrageous antics.

Mirka’s indomitable energy and ebullient personality will be sadly missed. We wish to express our sincere condolences to the artist’s children, Philippe, William and Tiriel, and to their respective families.