I am not above admitting that I watch Masterchef or that I can be convinced of things because I see them on that show. Masterchef in 2017 was my introduction to the Silo Art Trail. It’s a 200km stretch of road heading north between Rupanyup and Patchewollock. At the time we drove through, there were five pieces completed, with plenty of imitations cropping up around the country. And in recent weeks a sixth silo has been completed by the incredible Kaffeine at Rosebery.
The artworks were completed by artists from as close as Melbourne, from Brisbane and even from as far away as Russia.
We were coming to the trail from Adelaide so the first stop was Patchewollock and the amazing piece by Fintan Magee of a local farmer. This theme of the local being represented on these huge scale artworks was one that was repeated on almost every artwork we saw. The colour and vibrancy of Magee’s work was what was most striking to me. And to my dad as well, who declared it his favourite when I recently showed him photos.
From there we moved on to Rone’s piece in Lascelles – a dual portrait, one on each silo, of a local farming couple. I’m a huge fan of Rone’s art, and fortunately there is a lot of it to see in Melbourne. But this is the largest scale I’ve ever seen his work on. The level of detail in his portraits is always astounding to me. Look at the cloth and the buttons on the shirt of the male farmer, for example.
The silos at Brim are the first and most famous (they are the ones that were featured on Masterchef). This time four portraits of locals painted by Guido van Helten. As the first, these set the template for the rest of the towns on the trail to follow (and even the template for silos as far flung as Western Australia).
As a sign at the site says, van Helten spent a few weeks in the Wimmera talking to farmers and gaining inspiration for the large scale artworks he wanted to paint. He painted for a month between December 2015 and January 2016, working in extreme heat and dealing with the weather from thunderstorms to dust storms.
The four images are super powerful and, like Rone’s pieces, are full of a level of detail that blows my mind. Every shadow, every fold in the fabrics of the clothes, every line on a face.
Adnate is one of my favourite street artists. His work is all over Melbourne, from the Dalai Lama in the backstreets of Fitzroy to the portraits of Aboriginal children all over the town. The portraits of the children are particularly my favourite so I was so happy to see this theme reflected in his silos, with a twist. This work would feature both the young and the old, the children and the elders.
We got to Sheep Hills in the latter stages of the afternoon, when the light was starting to fall and soften as the sun headed toward the horizon (which was slightly concerning since we still had one more silo to see). But the afternoon light really brought out the colours in this piece. Everything seemed really vibrant, especially the eyes of the children which to me looked like they reflected the landscape they were looking out over. I got a little bit emotional looking at these.
So we did make the final silo in Rupanyup before sundown. Julia Volchokova, or Julia Woolf, took a different approach with her image of two local young people playing sport – netball and football.
These are very, very small towns that are entirely dependent on the farming that surrounds them. We were there on a Monday and by far we were the youngest people at each of the sites we visited. A lone VW Caddy among Grey Nomads in their RVs and 4WDs towing caravans. It’s incredible to see, in less than a year, what tourism has brought to the towns. A couple of the towns had gift stores selling souvenirs of the silo for that town (I wish I bought a tea towel or two). It will be interesting to see what another year brings.
With Kaffeine’s piece finished and reportedly a second phase of works being organised, I am very keen to get back on the road and revisit these sites.