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PhD Research: Art in the making: Mirka Mora’s techniques and materials (Sabine Cotte)


Sabine Cotte

Title of research project

Art in the making: Mirka Mora’s techniques and materials


University of Melbourne (Australia)


Dr Nicole Tse; A/P Alison Inglis

Estimated date of completion

June 2016

Previous education and work experience:

1986 Bachelor Fine Arts (Lithography) Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, Paris

1986 Honours Bachelor History of Art Paris 1

1990 Honours Bachelor Paintings Conservation INP (Paris)

1994 ICCROM Mural Paintings Conservation Certificate

2011 Masters of Arts University of Melbourne

25 years as a practicing paintings conservator in France, Himalayas and Australia.


This thesis investigates the creative processes of French-Australian artist Mirka Mora (born Paris 1928), a major figure in Melbourne’s social and artistic history. The research project is undertaken in close collaboration with the artist, with access to private sources such as diaries and works in progress; it explores the meaning of Mora’s choices of artistic materials and idiosyncratic modes of making, using a conservator’s eye to bring a different perspective on her oeuvre. Participatory methods of research (feedback) combined with technical art history methods (reconstructions of artworks) generated highly informative documentation about Mora’s yet unstudied soft sculptures production as well as better-known realisations (paintings, murals). Using methods of qualitative analysis borrowed from social sciences (oral history, ethnography, nature conservation), the thesis links Mora’s use of different techniques to her personal socio- economic experience, to the broader historical context ranging from feminism to public art policies and the craft movement and to the conscious construction of a public image that has proved extremely efficient in terms of reputation-building. Arguing that an interpretation of the meanings of materials is essential for conservation, the thesis integrates findings with models of decision-making reflecting contemporary international best practice. The last part of the thesis offers three cases studies of practical conservation of the artist’s soft sculptures outlining conservation approaches of Mora’s oeuvre as potential options for the future.



PhD was completed in 2016 and awarded in August 2017