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02 May

Sanctuary – an exhibition by Emily Birks

Sanctuary: A Year at Mulligans Flat, is an exhibition of paintings of the unique and vulnerable creatures who call Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary home, by emerging artist – Emily Birks.

‘Bush Stone-curlew’, watercolour work


Written by Emily Birks

Over the past year, I was given the opportunity to be an artist-in-residence with Mulligans Flat. The year-long time frame allowed me to examine the changes in the Sanctuary’s wildlife over the seasons, the reintroduction of species, hibernation, migration and reproduction.


The portraits focus on the particularly vulnerable animals that find sanctuary at Mulligans Flat. This includes the reintroduced animals – bettongs, curlews and quolls – and those that rely particularly on the box gum grassy woodland, such as superb parrots and sun moths. The big dam is a haven for water birds not commonly found in other areas of Canberra. I was particularly taken with several of the duck species that find a home on the dam and painted these in a mini-series.

It is a testament to how special this place is that I realised very quickly I could never portray every animal in one exhibition. It is teeming with life and became as much a sanctuary for me as it is for the animals. There is something wonderful about being able to forget about the worries of life and just be in the moment, watching.


Helping ecologists monitor the Eastern Bettong at Mulligans Flat.


I loved being offered an insight into the research being done by scientists in the sanctuary. Over the year, I helped take notes on a bettong trapping expedition in the middle of the night, tracked echidnas with radio tags and counted native lilies. I met ‘education bettong’ Banksia, and spotted tawny frogmouth fledglings and sugar gliders on night tours. Independently, I saw so many bird species for the first time. There are entire exhibitions in the number of bird species that call Mulligans Flat home!


‘Nocturnes: Bettong I’ – oil pastel work


It was a privilege to be invited to spend time with the people of Mulligans Flat. Every person I met was passionate about what they did and happy to share their knowledge. Mulligans Flat is a special place, with scientists undertaking important research into the conservation of species. For me, science and wildlife art are two sides of the same coin, interpreting the natural world around us in order that we can share it with others.


This exhibition is for everyone who loves living in the ‘Bush Capital’. It is for those who love animals, art and science. It is for those who have an interest in the nationally-important conservation work being done in our own ‘backyard’.


The Welcoming Party: Swamp Wallaby – watercolour work


The exhibition will take place at Strathnairn Arts, 90 Stockdill Drive, Holt, ACT from the 28 June to 22 July. There will be a special opening event on Saturday the 30th June at 4pm, with guest speaker Dr Kate Grarock, Sanctuary Ambassador, SuperStarofSTEM and Ecologist at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary in Canberra.