If you’re wondering what this photograph has to do with philately keep reading!
Australia has hundreds of abandoned grain silos dotted around the country. Many people think they are a bit of a blot on the landscape but the boring appearance of some of these monuments has been transformed by artists who may have previously practised their skills on city walls.
Consequently another subject for the stamp collector has been created by Australia Post, which has issued a set of stamps to recognise the incredible feats of the artists dedicated to brightening up the often scruffy look of the silos.
The little town of Brim is situated in Victoria’s wheat-growing Wimmera region, 350 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. The 30-metre-high silo murals on the above stamps were an initiative of artist Guido van Helten, silo owner GrainCorp, and local community organisation the Brim Active Group. This was the first silo mural in eastern Australia. Its huge success as a tourist attraction encouraged the Yarriambiack Shire to commission five additional GrainCorp silo murals. These six silos now constitute the Wimmera-Mallee Silo Art Trail.
Van Helten painted the mural across one side of the six silos during a three-week period in the summer of 2015-16. He used spray paint and acrylic exterior paint, which he applied from high on a cherry picker. His style is highly realistic; he often paints from photographs and is inspired by the tradition of documentary style humanist street photography. Guido van Helten is among the world’s most prominent public mural artists. His characteristically realist, monochrome portraits can be found on buildings in Ukraine, Poland, Spain, Belarus, Finland, Italy, USA and elsewhere. There is a strong political element to much of van Helten’s art and he is willing to risk his own safety to complete a project. In 2017, the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, van Helten honoured the memory of photojournalist Igor Kostin with a portrait painted inside an abandoned nuclear reactor at the still prohibited, radiation-affected site.
Weethalle is a small town in New South Wales.
The Weethalle silo shown on the stamp above was the first to be painted in New South Wales. The initiative came from Bland Shire Council, which was inspired by the success of Victoria’s silo trail. Nine artists applied to undertake the project and Mongolian-born Heesco Khosnaran was selected by a committee comprising Council and community representatives. They were impressed by Heesco’s undertaking to faithfully reflect the local community and its history. The artist drew his inspiration from several photographs to represent the district’s main agricultural activities: shearing and wheat growing.
To execute the vast mural, which consumed 200 litres of house paint and 300 spray cans, Heesco worked from a 24-metre telescopic boom lift. He began the two-week project by pressure washing nearly a century of dust and dirt on the silo walls before applying an undercoat. The large flat areas of colour were applied with a spray machine while the details were worked using a spray can.
The town of Thallon is located in South West Queensland, 571 kilometres west of Brisbane. Built in the 1970s, the 300,000 tonne GrainCorp depot is one of the largest in Australia. Despite recent near-record harvests, Thallon township has suffered through drought and the cessation of rail services, leading to a decline in businesses and population.
The plan to paint four of Thallon’s 30-metre-high, 40-metre-wide silos was a co-initiative of the Thallon Progress Association, owners GrainCorp and the two Brisbane-based artists, Drapl and The Zookeeper. After some research and a meeting with members of the local community the final artwork evolved. At the launch of the silo project the two artists were presented with Thallon’s traditional “keys to the city”, bottles of water from the Moonie River. Locals say that once you’ve tasted water from the river, you’ll be sure to return.
The giant mural occupied the artists for three weeks, working 10 hours a day. Guided only by an A4-size impression, Drapl and The Zookeeper executed the artwork with 500 litres of paint and 500 spray cans.
The Western Australia town of Ravensthorpe lies in the southern Goldfields-Esperance region, 541 kilometres east of Perth and 40 kilometres inland from the southern coast.
The Ravensthorpe silo murals were the second after the Northam silo murals to be commissioned by the FORM agency for the silos’ owners, the CBH Group. The project took 31 days to complete, using 338 litres of paint, and the work was carried out by Fremantle-based artist Amok Island in a boom lift. Like most silo artists, Amok Island selected imagery of particular relevance to the local region. His work, Six Stages of Banksia baxteri, depicts flora and fauna of the Ravensthorpe area, including an endemic banksia and the species’ main pollinators, the tiny Honey Possum, found only in the southwest of Western Australia, and the black, yellow and white New Holland Honeyeater, which is found throughout southern Australia. Each side of the three silos shows a different stage in the flowering cycle of the banksia, from bud to bloom to formation of seed pods and release of the seeds. Both sides of the three-cylinder silo bank have been employed to illustrate the never-ending cycle of the seasons, of crucial importance to all growing plants, including wheat and other grains produced in the region and stored in the silos.