An exhibition of paintings of the unique and vulnerable creatures who call Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary home, by artist Emily Birks.
Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary is a nature reserve in the north of Canberra that is restoring wildlife long-ago made extinct from the area by predators and land-clearing. I’ve been given the opportunity to be their artist-in-residence during 2017-2018.
The magnificence, uniqueness and personality of Australia’s wildlife is my primary inspiration for depicting animals as they go about their lives. I use acrylic ink or oil pastel to express the colour, pattern, and texture of fur and feathers while focusing on the animal itself. My aim is to create portraits showing the beauty and character of each subject. My close connection to native wildlife through animal rescue and encounters as a wildlife carer have given me a desire to share with the viewer how lucky we are to live in Australia with these remarkable creatures.
I am spending some time ‘behind the scenes’ at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary with the scientists doing research into the reintroduced species – quolls, bettongs, curlews – and exploring independently too. The year-long time frame allows me to examine the changes in the Sanctuary’s wildlife over the seasons, the reintroduction of species, hibernation, migration and reproduction. I’m creating paintings and presenting them at an exhibition called ‘Sanctuary: A Year at Mulligans Flat’ at Strathnairn Arts in June/July 2018.
“The more people experience, connect with, and share their love of nature, the more support there will be for its conservation” – International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Canberra is really fortunate to have so much wildlife living around us, we have to look after it. This project is for everyone who loves living in the ‘Bush Capital’. It is for those who love animals, and art. It is for those who have an interest in the nationally-important conservation work being done in our own ‘backyard’.
Canberra is really fortunate to have so much wildlife living around us, we have to look after it. And we have this fantastic and important place at Mulligans Flat, people doing really important research into conservation of species. I really wanted to interpret that in an artistic way. 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. I look forward to sharing my experience with you!
There are six more months until the exhibition launches. I continue to make paintings each month, visit the Mulligans Flat sanctuary to seek inspiration and solace in nature, and plan to do several more field trips with the scientists of the sanctuary.
Grant funding would be used to purchase frames for the exhibition. As a qualified conservation framer, though I will be having the frame mouldings made, I will be cutting and assembling all window mats, glazing and hanging components myself. With funding I would purchase acrylic (perspex) glazing, archival cotton-fibre matboard, foamcore, hanging D-latches and have as many gallery-style timber frames made as funding allows.
Any profit from from this project will be put towards my next exhibition, depicting the important work that ACT’s wildlife carers contribute to the community. The rescue, rehabilitation and release of Canberra’s sick or injured native animals is primarily done by a group of volunteers, who are tireless in their dedication to preserving our native fauna. My aim is to share a view into the lives of the animals that come into care and the reasons they do so. I am passionate about the conservation of our natural environment and the remarkable creatures we share it with.