Followers of our Roe’ving Australia blogs may recall that we’ve previously visited several silo art towns to date on this trip (think Northam, Albany and Ravensthorpe in Western Australia, and South Australia’s Tumby Bay, Cowell and Kimba).
Well, we’re about to ratchet up the pace a bit, by exploring several Victorian silo art trails. Our previous blog about the Murray River mentioned how we’d taken a few side trips from the Murray region to check out various painted silos. This blog highlights the silo art in 13 (mostly Victorian) towns that we visited in recent weeks on these road trips, as well as a couple of NSW towns with water tower art.
According to the Australian silo art trail website, the very first Australian painted silo appeared in Northam WA just four short years ago. The movement has since burst onto the Australian art scene, with currently 33 sites and many more in the planning and development stages.
Many (although not all) of the silo art towns that are mentioned in this blog have seen better days, and it would be fair to say that they are doing it tough. But in every town, the new silo art is visibly bringing tourists, caravanners and even tour buses – most of whom would probably never have visited without the painted silo drawcard. Not only that, many of these towns are actively developing their status as RV-friendly towns and offering free or ‘by-donation’ campsites, which also helps to inject some much-needed spending in their pubs, general stores and servos.
And, what an overwhelming experience it is to witness these huge ‘canvases’ in an open air art gallery. Many of these silos can be spotted on approach from many kilometres away, as a shining beacon on an otherwise flat, brown and dusty landscape. Our personal creative talent seems to start and end with our ability to draw stick figures (🙄), so we cannot fathom how anyone has the perspective and insight needed to scope out beautiful artwork 20-30 metres high. How do they do it? All we can do is stand back in awe, marveling at and admiring the beauty before us.
This first exquisite example of silo art that we found near the Murray River was in Waikerie in South Australia. It took 16 weeks and almost 500 litres of paint to complete these silos, which are painted on all sides. The regent parrot (below) stands almost 30m tall.
North-Western Victoria Silo Art Trail
After leaving our next stop in the Murray River town of Mildura, it made sense to start the North-Western Victoria Silo Art Trail from the northern end, in the small town of Patchewollock. From there, we followed the trail to the southern end at Rupanyup, stopping at each silo along the 200kms route.
This silo art trail was conceived in 2016, with the artwork depicting the spirit, people and history of the harsh remote Wimmera-Mallee region of north-western Victoria.
This next example (below) by the artist Rone, depicts a local Lascelles farming couple, Geoff and Merrilyn Horman, on the outer edge of each silo. Their family has farmed and lived in the area for four generations.
While Rupanyup was previously considered the end of the trail, a new silo art installation recently opened in the town of Nullawil, 120kms back up in the north east. So we decided to stay overnight in the small town of Donald, in a free camp overlooking the Richardson River.
It was while walking through the Donald township that we first learned of the legacy of George Bills, a Sydney businessman who died in 1927. His will allowed for income from his estate to provide water troughs for horses and for the prevention of cruelty to animals. During 1930, more than 500 ‘Bills’ horse troughs (like the one in the image below) were installed, mainly in NSW and Victoria. Now there’s an interesting little tidbit on which to reflect next time you see an old water trough in a country town.
We were keen to see this next silo in Nullawil since we first saw images of it circulating on Facebook when the artwork was completed in July this year. The image of the kelpie is stunning, and the artist has really captured that special bond and understanding between working dog and master.
We headed back up to the Murray again, this time to Echuca/Moama for the next four days, during which time we took a day trip south to Bendigo in Victoria to visit relatives. En route we passed through Rochester and, naturally, stopped to check out the painted silos.
We also took another short day trip to the north to Deniliquin in New South Wales, to check out the town’s painted water tower. Unfortunately, the sun was high and directly behind the tower, making it a little tricky to photograph the best angles.
Other public art in Deiniliquin draws on its self-proclaimed status as the ‘Ute capital of the world’ and long history of holding the popular annual ‘Deni Ute Muster’ (images below).
The road trip to Deniliquin took us through the small town of Mathoura, where we couldn’t help but notice a long fence adorned with bras, right on the highway in the middle of town. The bra fence is a community initiative to raise funds for local cancer charities, so we snapped a few pics and dropped our donation in the box before continuing on our journey.
North-East Victoria Silo Art Trail
We started our day trip through the north-east Victorian silo art trail from the north, as we were staying at the Murray town of Cobram, Victoria. Our first stop was in Tungamah, where the silo art took 60 litres of paint as well as 142 x 400ml spray cans, yet was completed in just eight days!
In addition to the above silos, Goorambat’s small Uniting Church hosts a beautiful image of Sophia, the female aspect of the Holy Spirit, depicting her wise, nurturing, comforting, inspirational and ever-present characteristics.
Back to New South Wales
We said goodbye to our base at Cobram and the Murray River, and headed north back into New South Wales, our home state.
Our first stop was in Lockhart, to check out its gorgeous water tower, painted by Scott Nagy and Krimsone (Janne Birkner). Every inch of the water tower is covered, and it took 600 sq metres of undercoat before the artwork could commence. The artwork’s theme portrays a healthy ecosystem flourishing around a thriving water source, with bright illustrations of waterfalls and native flora and fauna, including brolgas, rosella, willy wagtails, kookaburra, magpie, galahs, possum, echidna and kangaroos.
Selected details from the painted water tower in Lockhart NSW, showing willy wagtails (above), and (below) kookaburra and kangaroos (L), magpie (mid) and rosella and galahs (R).
There were also many displays of metal artworks throughout the streets of Lockhart (below).
It would be remiss to blog about out drives through the countryside without mentioning the very visible impact that the ongoing drought has on the landscapes and local communities. We witnessed hundreds of paddocks of sparse, ratty crops in Victoria and NSW – a far cry from the vibrant, healthy wheat and canola fields we saw in southern WA just a month or two earlier. Few crops beyond the Murray valley seemed to have access to irrigation.
Our next stop was Griffith, a vibrant ‘food bowl’ of vineyards and orchards in the heart of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. As it turned out, Griffith was celebrating its annual Griffith Spring Fest, with more than 70 sculptures made from oranges (and the odd grapefruit) lining the main street (a few highlights below).
Our next brief stop was the small town of Barellan (population 500), childhood home of Aussie tennis great, Evonne Goolagong (Cawley).
It has now been six months since we first set out on our big adventure and, if truth be told, we were missing home and the family. And it didn’t help that we were tantalisingly close to home, just a few hours away.
We made the decision to head home a little earlier than anticipated, briefly stopping in Canberra to catch up with the family and six months of missed hugs with the grandkids.
And then it was off for the two hour drive home to the beautiful south coast of New South Wales.
The new bridge to span the Clyde River in Batemans Bay hadn’t started when we left, but we can announce that progress is definitely being made.
Of course, now comes the unpacking, washing, cleaning etc, not to mention tending to the weeds throughout the garden beds and lawn. And what’s with all the new Spring growth on the shrubs?
Hhhmmm, maybe we should lock up the place and head back on the road again?
… And definitely start planning the next big trip, not to mention lots of shorter jaunts.
Sigh, so much of Australia to see. And we need to make the time to go out and explore our stunning land of contrasts, beauty and weird and wonderful sights and experiences.
In the meantime, we have a couple of blogs planned on our six months away, including all the stats (e.g. did we really clock up 30,000 kms?), plus all the highlights and ‘best of’ categories (e.g. fave free camp, unexpected experiences, etc), and maybe even a few others (e.g. the most mind-numbingly boring drive, or ‘could only happen in Oz’ moments, etc).