05 June 2018

Public art in rural Australia - grain silo murals

Victoria Spanning 200 ks across rural Wimmera-Mallee in Victoria, the fed­er­al and state-funded Silo Art Trail was designed to stimulate soc­ial, cultural and economic benefits to the region through art and tourism.

Famous Brisbane street artist Guido van Helten’s works adorn public walls in UK and Ireland, France, Ukraine, Bel­arus and Est­on­ia. He was invit­ed to Brim (pop 260 in the Wimmera) during 2015, and was asked to come up with a design inclusive of the locals. The project organ­is­er of  a Melbourne art management business said the project would cost $10,000, made possible with grants from Yarriambiack Shire, Regional Arts Victoria and the Brim Active Community Group, plus donations.

Luckily Guido always believed that silos had perfect sur­faces for painting street art. In Brim he painted a 30m x 30m scene dep­icting the Farmer Quartet across the four GrainCorp’s decom­mis­s­ioned grain silos. Created in van Helten’s famous monochromatic photo-realistic style, the Brim mural quickly became a regional land­­mark and provided the inspiration for The Silo Art Trail project.

“The site was no longer in use and the comm­un­ity had been looking at different ways to attract people to their town. Brim Active Com­munity Group wanted the artwork to attract more visitors to the drought stricken rural town, 350km northwest of Melbourne.

In the Grampians, travel to Patchewollock (pop 250) and see the work of Brisbane-based street artist Fintan Magee, sometimes refer­red to as Aust­ralia’s Banksy. Painted during Oct 2016, the giant mural depicts a local sheep and grain farmer, chosen for his clas­s­ic farmer looks and his strong connection to the farming community.

Another giant mural dedicated to Indigenous culture and knowledge emerged in Sheep Hills (pop 28), little more than a farming loc­al­ity on the rail line between Minyip and Warracknabeal. Well known artist Adnate painted the GrainCorp silo as part of the Yarriam­biack Shire Silo Art Trail, the third silo after Brim and Patch­ewollock. And the largest work (30m x 40m) that Adnate ever created.

Adnate is noted for working with Indigenous communities and for his renaissance-style chiaroscuro impressions, so the Sheep Hills project reflects this passion. He worked with the Barengi Gadlin Land Council to create his design, featuring two Wimmera Elders, along with a young boy and a young girl set in the night sky. The mural is about passing Abor­iginal culture and know­ledge from generation to generation. Appropriately there was a community event to launch the mural, gi­ven that the community was rapt with it and that it is so diff­erent from all the other silos.

Other Victorian silos have since been painted on a 200km silo art trail in the Wimmera and Mall­ee. These include silo art­work at the Lascelles silos. Melbourne street artist Rone depicted the faces of Lascelles couple whose famil­ies have lived and farmed locally for generations and con­tinued the family tradit­ions of strong community involvement.

The Rupanyup grain storage was painted as a further part of the silo art trail in 2017. The artwork on the silos of two young lo­cals was completed by Russian artist Julia Volchkova, then the Wimmera Grains Store featured the same artwork on their chick pea and lentil packaging.

In late 2017 the silos at Rosebery, south of Hopetoun, were painted with giant murals. Melbourne street artist Katie Kaff-eine painted two farmers on the final silo in the Shire’s Silo Art Trail.


 Sheep Hills


South Australia The Viterra manager for the Eastern region of South Australia saw the wonderful work Guido had done in Brim and other Victorian towns, and the flow-on benefits the art had had on those communit­ies. He noted that the Coonalpyn (pop 200) silos were still used and the company was pleased to be supporting the local commun­ity. In Feb 2017 artist Guido van Helten painted five fine port­raits of children at play on the town’s 30m-high grain silos. This silo complex painting is South Australia’s largest art “canvas”.

Van Helten said the design focused the circular features of the silo and encouraged visitors to move around for different viewing points. The mural is just one of six projects that are part of the council’s $100,000 Creating Coonalpyn initiative, bringing a sense of pride back to the community. This tiny rural town 160km south of Adelaide is already showing signs of rejuvenation and community pride. Motor­ists stop along the busy Dukes Highway to photograph the silos and two new businesses have opened in the town, with another one starting in August.

Another silo art project was officially opened in 2017 in South Australia. The silo at Kimba on South Austral­ia’s Eyre Peninsula displays 30-metre high artwork was done by Melb­ourne artist Cam Scale and features a colourful depiction of a Kim­ba sunset, wheat fields and a young girl. Cam Scale also completed a Geelong-based outdoor piece “To The Unknown Mariner”.

When the idea of commis­s­ioning large-scale artwork on a Viterra grain storage facility in Kimba started, the community raised $60,000 to top up a $40,000 grant, thus funding the art project in the grain-growing community. The community hoped the art would attract visitors to the town 500km west of Adelaide, bringing economic benefits by getting travellers to park near the silos.


Map of Western Victoria
Silo Art Trail

In NE Victoria artist Jimmy DVate painted the Goorambat silos in March 2018,  as well as the neighbouring towns Tungamah and Devenish. Note that Anzac Day 2018 coincided with the 100 year centenary of the end of WW1. Appropriately the Devenish silos show a WW1 nurse and a modern combat medic.

Flora and fauna was set to be the theme of nearby Rochester GrainCorp, as the town prepared to join the state's expanding silo art trail. Thus Rochester became the fourth northern Victorian town to transform its silos with full length art. As business owners in other parts of Victoria already noted, the community hoped the artwork would help the town to capitalise on traffic that passed through the small towns, en route to Echuca.

WWI nurse and modern medic on a 20m tall mural in Devenish
in north-east Victoria


Now other towns are keen to catch a ride on the coat-tails of the Wimmera towns and the rush is on to convert the nation’s mothballed wheat silos into the world’s biggest art gallery. For example two artists transformed eight silos at Northam in Western Australia, and artworks appeared on the grain silos at Weethalle NSW, and in the Queensland town of Thallon.


Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, This is an interesting use of such publicly visible structures to feature art. However, sometimes when the silos are of a certain period or style, or have a fine silhouette on their own, I am not sure that they need further decorating.

They remind me of Bali, a section of Taipei. An archaeological dig there excavated artifacts with a number of striking native patterns (displayed in the Shi San Hang Museum), and these were reproduced on the large processing tanks of a sewage treatment plant built there. These are quite interesting, although I admit that agricultural silos perhaps outrank sewage tanks.

bazza said...

Katie Kaff-eine - What a brilliant name that is! The idea of large public murals possibly fulfils the same function as cave-paintings, the first recognised works of art. If so, they represent a longer tradition than any other art that has ever been made.....
They do look magnificent must must be seen in situ I would think.
On the side of one of the gigantic buildings at Cape Canaveral there is a painting of a huge US flag; I am also reminded of that. There is something about momumentalism that links these works together. I think it is that they have a humbling effect on the viewer.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s aromatic Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Astonishing - and impressive. What a brilliant idea! Though I guess some miserable soul might point out that we like to avoid things that are perceived as ugly and that this might therefore be a Bad Thing. Personally, I think it's great.

Deb said...

The Northam silos are more colourful than those in the southern states, but more abstract.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hels - they look amazing and would certainly entice me to take a trip or two ... what a great idea for the silos. Incredibly talented artists who can design and draw like that ... I do hope the towns get some ongoing economic benefit - cheers Hilary

Andrew said...

It will be interesting to see if there is a long term economic benefit to these areas, but even if not, art for arts sake.

Hels said...


Thank you. I hope I found the sewage tanks you are referring to: http://themes.gov.taipei/public/Attachment/611810303929.jpg

It shows that ugly, functional structures can be made the site of art work in other cities, before we ever thought of it here. And it shows the importance of using local references in designing the images/patterns.

Hels said...


thank you for the reference to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Canaveral where the flag alone is 209' high. Monumentalism indeed:

Kennedy News (2005) reported that workers at the Space Centre restored to glory the American flag painted on the side of the historic Vehicle Assembly Building, after it was damaged by hurricanes in 2004.

Hels said...


I don't mind functional, plain or even brutal structures, but I do mind decrepit and ugly. I should have put up a photo or two of the silos, when they were mouldering away a few years ago. The recent changes are very impressive!

Hels said...


I lived in Perth for a few years in the 1970s but I don't remember Northam these 45 years later. The VERY large Northam silos were apparently painted two different artists (Phlegm on the left, Hense on the right) in 2015. https://thewest.com.au/countryman/grain-of-truth-in-silo-art-project-ng-b88539128z

In 2017 FORM wrote: “We hope these artworks will act as a catalyst for cultural tourism, linking the Great Southern, Wheatbelt, and Goldfields-Esperance regions. Both of the first two projects have received world-wide attention and have added another drawcard for tourists coming to regional WA.”

Hels said...


I too hope that tourists will make a special silo-art tour to these fairly remote wheat belt towns. But even travellers who happen to be en route to somewhere else might like to stop for lunch, if attractive coffee shops were built within walking distance. I would also appreciate a board with curatorial notes available for visitors, not just about the art but about the town and the wheat industry as well.

Hels said...


Spot on! "Art for art's sake" hoped that artistic projects were their own justification and that art did not need moral or didactic value to make it worthwhile. But I fear that went the way of "education for education's sake" i.e learning need not be purely vocational to be valuable.

Parnassus said...

Hello again, Yes, the link you quoted shows those Taipei tanks, although that is an unflattering picture. When I visited, the tanks were brighter and more interesting-looking. I'll have to see if I can scare up some of the photos I took when I visited the ShiSanHang Museum.

I also appreciated Bazza's link to the NASA building. It reminds me of a happier element of U.S. history! --Jim

We Travel said...

Public or street art isn't always valued. Remember the Vault better known as the Yellow Peril?

Hels said...


If you had mentioned any of these sites two years ago, I would not have known about the concept AT ALL. Then one of the students accidentally bumped into the Victoria Silo Art Trail and asked if I would be interested in writing it up.

Now I also need to thank bloggers for information about similar projects interstate and overseas.

When you find a good photo, and the relevant dates for the Taipei tanks art, I will add it to the post.

Hels said...

We Travel

Ahh yes, I remember it well. The yellow sculpture attracted quite vigorous criticism from conservative media and local government, because its modern form was seen as being too modern and too expensive for the newly developed City Square. It was banished - pulled apart and re-erected in a less central location.

Shame, council, shame :(

Jim said...

These are amazing.

Hels said...


We might hear our world shattering news on radio, tv and newspapers, but sometimes we find more inspiring treasures in blogs :)

Joseph said...

Timing is everything! A row of four old silos has become a 108 room hotel alongside the Tamar River in Launceston. Peppers Silo Hotel opened this month, with local foods, woollen blankets, wines and coffees. The house restaurant is called Grains of the Silo.

The article was in the Weekend Australian, June 16-17 2018.

Mark Kearney said...

Artworks at Devenish, Tungamah and Goorambat have all appeared since the start of the year, with the Goorambat mural — a rendering of a barking owl — also the work of DVate. Owner of Goorambat's Railway Hotel, Jacqui Coleman, can see the owl mural from a window of her pub.
She said business had turned the corner since the artwork was complete, with the kitchen cooking as many as 30 meals on a quiet weekday lunch. Probus clubs and car groups regularly stopped by for lunch, having followed the north-east silo trail all the way to the hotel's doorstep.

Examine the WWI nurse on a 20 metre high mural on the disused grain silos in the small town of Devenish in northern Victoria.

Hels said...


Although spouse and I have travelled around Benalla, I had never heard of Devenish, Tungamah or Goorambat. Thank you. I will add another paragraph to the post.

Hels said...


When you were in Western Australia, did you see the mural art from Kalgoolie-Boulder, Australia's gold capital? See the details and photos in The Weekend Australian, Jan 26-27th, 2019.