Brim is a small Wimmera town of approximately 100 people located on the Henty Highway 70 kilometres north of Horsham in western Victoria, Australia. The Wimmera is flat country, made up of millions of hectares of wheat farms as far as the eye can see. Only the beautiful Grampians mountain range interrupt the terrain, but that’s far south from Brim.
I recently had cause to travel to western Victoria and so decided to make a small detour north of Horsham to see the famous painted silos that have gained so much media attention. I left Melbourne at 2pm, so it was a race against the setting sun to get there before it was dark. As I turned off the Western Highway near Stawell, the sun’s golden disc was quickly disappearing behind chunky blue clouds that would ensure an earlier ‘sunset’ than would be expected in fine weather.
As I travelled north through Rupanyup, Minyip and Warracknabeal the silos became more abundant in the fields. I started to wonder about those large structures that stood there like giant cathedrals to agriculture. Why were some bigger than others? What did each component actually do? How many are still used? (It turns out that there are answers, but that was for later).
Thankfully I arrived at Brim before the sun set. Opposite the silos was a small gravel car park complete with an information board, pneumatic road tube counters and a sign advertising cappuccinos at a bakery in town. Clearly this was a popular place, although I was the only visitor at that late hour of the day. I parked the car and disembarked to admire the art.
It was well worth the drive.
The silos stand thirty metres tall and depict four rural folk; one woman and three men. Two of the men and the woman are relatively old, but there’s a younger man there too. Perhaps he’s in his thirties. There could be a no more quintessential depiction of Australian farmers than these four figures; both the old folk who have worked the land their entire lives and the younger man who represents the face of contemporary Australian agriculture.
The silo art is the work of Guido van Helten, an internationally renown Australian artist famous for his large-scale murals. Van Helten uses aerosols to create his works. A close inspection of the wall reveals the small droplets of paint that trickled down the wall when the aerosol was passed over the concrete. Up close, it’s difficult to see much artistic detail at all but from afar, it looks like a monochrome photograph.
The silo at Brim is of a type called a “double Geelong”. Constructed in the 1930’s by the Grain Elevators Board of Victoria (now GrainCorp), the silos consist of two “Geelong” units which share a corrugated iron roof. Each unit has a number of annexes that hold various quantities of grain. Their type is quite common in the western parts of Victoria.I probably spent twenty minutes wandering around the silos and admiring the art before the sun finally set. This one piece of artwork demonstrates so clearly what can be done with a little creativity to improve amenity and add value to a community. I’m not the only person who believes this to be true.
It was an impressive vision, one that I recommend anyone to go and see.