The Victoria silo art trail is Australia‘s largest outdoor gallery. Seven huge grain silos over the space of 300 kilometres in rural north western Victoria have been handed over to local and international street artists to use as canvases.
Each silo now features stunning portraits that celebrate a variety of local people from Victoria’s Wimmera Mallee region.
The most common subjects of the silo art trail are members of the local farming communities, but also celebrated are the local indigenous community, as well as the region’s youth and their hopes for the future.
Originally just a local community project, Brim silo’s murals were an instant success, drawing in visitors from far and wide and bringing much needed tourist dollars.
The idea for a silo art trail quickly followed. Five other silos in the Wimmera Mallee region were given the same treatment, all linked by around 200 kilometres of rural highways, and each painted by a different artist. The theme of each artwork is to celebrate the local community.
Originally the silo art trail consisted of six painted silos. In July 2019, the seventh and latest addition to the Victoria silo art trail was completed in the town of Nullawil.
Sticking to the celebratory theme of the silo art trail, Nullawil’s painted silo honours one of Australian farming’s most loyal workers, the kelpie sheepdog.
Victoria’s silo art trail is in the north west of the state. The seven painted silos all form part of a 300 kilometre long route.
The most southerly silo is found in the small town of Rupanyup, around a three and a half hour drive from Melbourne, and two hours from both Ballarat and Bendigo. Halls Gap in the Grampians is just under an hour away.
At the southernmost end of Victoria’s silo art trail is Rupanyup. Rupanyup’s silo focuses on the town’s youth and future, featuring monochrome portraits of Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidemann, two of the town’s young athletes.
Kitted out in their sporting attire, the portraits of Baker and Weidemann are imbued with a sense of hope and optimism.
Rupanyup silo was painted by the Russian artist Julia Volchkova, who has created several large scale murals in places all over the world, most recently in Mexico and Malaysia.
Sheep Hills‘ silo is without a doubt the most colourful on the trail. Painted by Melbourne based artist Adnate, Sheep Hills’ silo art celebrates the region’s strong Indigenous culture and heritage.
Across six silos, Adnate has painted a stunning series of celebratory portraits of two local Aboriginal elders, Uncle Ron Marks and Aunty Regina Hood, alongside two Indigenous children, Savannah Marks and Curtly McDonald.
A bold and brilliant burgundy sunset represents the complex and hugely important ancient Aboriginal spiritual belief commonly known as Dreamtime.
Adnate’s portraits also symbolise the historical and significant Aboriginal tradition of handing down wisdom and learning from one generation to the next.
Brim‘s silo was the very first to be painted in the area, the success of which inspired the idea for a silo art trail.
Looking for a suitable location to paint a series of large scale portraits, Guido Van Helten was offered the chance to paint on the decommissioned silos at Brim.
Van Helten stayed in Brim for a month in order to spend time within the local farming community and pick up inspiration for his portraits.
The four figures painted on to Brim’s silos aren’t members of the local community but anonymous portraits that symbolise the older and newer generations of rural farmers.
The four figures, painted in an unguarded moment, depict the dedication that farming requires alongside the changing times and continued challenges that rural communities like Brim face.
The two portraits by Melbourne’s Kaff-eine on Rosebery’s grain silo honours the past, present and future of regional farming. One portrait shows a young female sheep farmer ready to take on farming’s frequent hardships and an uncertain future with grit and determination.
The second portrait features a poignant moment of reflection and contemplation between an older farmer and his trusted horse.
Once a lawyer, Kaff-eine is now an internationally recognised street artist. Kaff-eine spent several weeks living in the local community before beginning work on the Rosebery silo to help her get a greater understanding of life in rural Victoria. Kaff-eine also helped the artist Rone with his artwork on the silo in nearby Lascelles.
Patchewollock silo’s narrow frame is the perfect canvas for the portrait of the tall and thin local sheep farmer Nick Hulland.
Fintan Magee‘s portait shows a pensive Hulland wearing a bright check shirt that, judging by the portraits along the silo art trail, seems to be a mandatory uniform for Australian farmers.
When Magee met Hulland he knew that he had found the perfect subject for his silo painting. Hulland’s somewhat distracted, troubled gaze hints at the difficulty and uncertainty that comes with farming in such a harsh and susceptible climate.
Lascelles‘ silos are adorned by portraits of two of the community’s long standing citizens. Geoff and Merrilyn Horman’s family have lived in the area for four generations.
Rone has depicted the couple with expressions of wisdom and strength to symbolise their experience and their deep rooted links to the region.
As with all of the portraits on Victoria’s silo art trail the photorealistic detail in the paintings on Lascelles silo is remarkable.
Rone has painted the couple in an understated style, so that their images blend in with the dark concrete textures of the silo’s surface.
Nullawil silo is the latest addition to Victoria’s silo art trail was completed in July 2019. Around an hour from the next nearest painted silo, the artwork on Nullawil’s silo is a fabulous addition to the trail.
The subject is a beautiful Australian kelpie sheepdog, sat alongside his farmer. A mainstay of farming in Australia, kelpies are famous for their agility and obedient temperament and are experts at herding and managing livestock.
They also posses an incredible natural work ethic, and have long played a vital role in Australian farming for over a century.
The kelpie on Nullawil silo is shown in a typical pose, eyes zoned in and focussed and ready to work. His farmers hand seems to hold him back, as if having to force him to take a break.
The painting of Nullawil silo was funded via a community grant programme run by the Victorian state government. Though an Aussie, the artist Smug now lives in Scotland and flew back to Australia especially to paint Nullawil’s silo.
The best way to see the silo art trail will depend on where you’re coming from, where you’re heading afterwards and how much time you have.
The whole trail is just under 300 kilometres in total and there are long drives between each silo. The whole trail is around a three hour drive without stops, but allow for a lot more time than this.
With an early start you can easily visit all of the silos in a day if you’re staying near enough to the start and end of the trail. If you’re coming from Halls Gap in the Grampians or Bendigo, for example, it’s a very doable one day road trip.
There are plenty of petrol stations along the route and the larger towns of Warracknabeal, Hopetoun and Sea Lake are your best bets for any essentials or a decent bite to eat.
Street art in Sea Lake and the welcome sign in Warracknabeal, the birthplace of Nick Cave.
Many people choose to visit the trail over a couple of days, breaking up the journey by staying overnight somewhere close to the route. This makes sense, especially if you’re coming from Melbourne, which is at least a three hour drive from the first silo.
If you’re travelling over a weekend be aware that there’s not a lot open along the trail on Sundays, especially if you’re looking for something to eat. You may need to detour to one of the larger towns nearby to find somewhere open.
At the other end of the trail, the recently renovated and reopened Royal Hotel in Sea Lake is another good option to consider.
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