Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 19, 2008

Wicked But Virtuous (2000), by Mirka Mora

I was expecting to enjoy this book because I like Mirka Mora’s free-spirited art works, but it was a disappointment. I found it difficult to follow her train of thought in these chaotic ramblings…
The constant name-dropping really irritated me. Of course a notable painter like Mora is going to know many notable people, but there are 10 pages of famous names in the index!

Most of the time there’s seems to be no relevance in mentioning these people, but that may be partly because of the erratic way that Mora has put this book together. She explains (on p190) that her first efforts at writing her autobiography consisted in copying parts of her diary, and that is exactly what most of it looks like. She says elsewhere that her editor was concerned about her not meeting the deadline and I suspect that if time was tight, he/she decided to try and make a virtue of the muddle and hope that those interested in the book would consider it ‘artistic’. (Mora herself alludes to Proust, hinting that she is writing in a sort of stream of consciousness as Proust did, but having read Proust myself, I can’t agree….)

(Would Proust have written four lines about being molested on a train, followed by a line about wearing a little black Parisian suit? (p78). I think not).

I also disliked the way she demeaned her husband Georges in death, telling us about his urine bag (p80). She is also horrid about Clifton Pugh and his failure to find her G-spot (p89), and tells us much more than we want to know about her farting and diarrhoea (p187-188).

She flits from topic to topic, from Georges’ death to drinking calvados in the very next paragraph (p80), and then on to her cancer, scampering from event to event without ever really explaining anything. In one line, she tells us that in 1970 she left her family (p107), and then launches into rambling on about her dolls.

She certainly has a healthy ego. I don’t begrudge her that because I think artists need one, but I did get rather tired of her remarks about how much so-and-so loved her, how she is ‘too intelligent’ (p78) and how a dentist photographed her to include in his show of ‘Melbourne’s most beautiful women’. (see photo). Mora takes credit for every little thing: from a woman taking up study after one of her workshops (p157) to the success that she had with their achievements.

I did enjoy the chapter about the influences on her work and the art books she uses, and it was interesting to discover that she thinks she has a form of synaesthesia – that is, she associates certain musical notes with colours in her palette. I wonder if many artists are like this, and if they regard it as a bonus or a burden. However the chapter about her workshops was painfully boring, and reads like jottings from her calendar.

Overall, however, I found her flippant, erratic, self-obsessed and ultimately dull.

Author: Mirka Mora
Title: Wicked but Virtuous
Source: Kingston Library


  1. […] reviews: Lisa from ANZLitlovers reviewed this and seem to like it even less than I […]


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