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This exhibition celebrates the practice of much-loved Melbourne artist Mirka Mora through a selection of work made during her thirty-year friendship with Heide founders John and Sunday Reed. It traces Mirka’s creative development over time and reveals her close rapport with the Reeds, founded on a mutual passion for art, literature and poetry. Among the paintings, works on paper and soft sculptures on display are drawings personalised with affectionate messages or anecdotal inscriptions, remembering special occasions and shared seaside holidays at Aspendale.
Mirka met the Reeds not long after she and her husband Georges Mora emigrated from Paris to Australia in 1951. Welcomed by Melbourne’s cultural community, they were soon invited to Heide. A ritual of Sunday lunches began as the Moras and Reeds developed their plans for two important exhibition venues for progressive art in Melbourne: the Gallery of Contemporary Art (1956–57) and its successor, the Museum of Modern Art and Design of Australia (1958–66).
During the 1950s and 1960s the Moras also established a series of well-patronised European eateries: Mirka Café in Exhibition Street opened in 1954; Café Balzac, East Melbourne in 1957 and Tolarno Bistro, St Kilda in 1965. In the same period Mirka pursued her artistic career, evolving her mature style characterised by an idiosyncratic iconography of motifs, including angels, children, fantastical beasts, self portraits, lovers and universal symbols. The works in MIRKA attest to the breadth of her sources, which range from the theatrical traditions of the surrealists and the Comédies Italiennes, to the work of European modern masters, classical mythology, fables, fairy tales, child and folk art, and events in her own life. They also indicate the remarkable range of media the artist has utilised in a lifetime of technical and aesthetic exploration.
John and Sunday Reed supported Mirka’s creative endeavours and the artist observed that to know them was ‘to sharpen your sensitivity’ because they ‘could read a painting like a musician can read music’. Commissioned specifically for this exhibition is a lyrical mural on the sunroom windows that pays homage to the people who were for Mora ‘more than two friends because they could read my soul’.