Guido van Helten begins art on Portland's silos

NO SMALL TASK: Guido van Helten in front of Portland's silos before beginning his mural on Sunday, April 15. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY.
NO SMALL TASK: Guido van Helten in front of Portland's silos before beginning his mural on Sunday, April 15. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY.

Brisbane street artist Guido van Helten says his mural on Portland’s cement silos will pay tribute to the history of the site and the town’s future. 

He first set spray can to silo on Sunday afternoon, having spent approximately three weeks since February getting to know Portland and its residents. 

Recently painting in India, Italy and Finland, Mr van Helten said he found plenty to be fascinated by in Portland, in particular the lingering importance of the cement works in town, which first started operating in 1900.  

ARTIST: Guido van Helten at the Portland Cement Works. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY.

ARTIST: Guido van Helten at the Portland Cement Works. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY.

“It has that history when you look at the old pictures, it’s a very rich, lively place. And the pulsing heart of the town is no longer here,” he said. 

“The whole town is built around this thing and this has been dormant since 1995. It’s been shut down so long and everybody just walks around it, it’s huge.”

“Naturally, through local involvement with this site, maybe it will bring back this as a centre piece. But in a totally different way, and in a creative way.

“The artwork will generally commemorate that history of the place as well as the living present, and how that could change.”

Mr van Helten is known for his photorealistic murals depicting people local to the towns his works sit within. 

He was tight-lipped on who would be featured in the mural.  

“Yeah, I just kind of like to let it evolve,” he said. 

“People who know my style know that I do work with local people to shape the picture, but that the work is not necessarily about those people.

“I don’t want to focus on identity so much. It’s not a popularity contest, it’s about the story of this site. And that can be explained in a figurative way.” 

He said that while signwriting would not be part of the mural, he did see the project as a continuance of the late Ron Bidwell’s legacy.

THE FOUNDATIONS: The Portland Cement Works operated between 1900 and 1995. Picture: ROBERT HOULISON.

THE FOUNDATIONS: The Portland Cement Works operated between 1900 and 1995. Picture: ROBERT HOULISON.

“The town has got a lot of creative aspects to it, so I’m sort of embracing that with this work. It could do a lot for the towns in terms of opening the space and providing a feature.

“I’m my own artist and I have my own style, I don’t do signwriting. But what he did was a similar thing: you use art to create a focal point.

“He came to this town and used art for revitalisation. He was using spaces, he was just using walls, so it’s the same idea.”

 The mural will wrap around the entirety of the silos.  

“That’s the cool thing about this, people can walk around the whole thing, unlike works I have done where they are on a road or railway so there is no point doing the other side,” he said. 

“I want it to be very interactive and kind of 3D in that way.”

The mural’s design will allow for the texture of the concrete silos to come through and will also incorporate colours and patterns that occur on the cement works site. 

“It’s part of the history, so I want to keep that,” Mr van Helten said. 

Visitors can watch the unfolding of van Helten’s mural over the next month for a gold coin entry into the cement works.