There are around 74 painted water towers throughout rural Australia. The Water Tower Art stamp issue, which will be released on 7 September 2020, presents four spectacular large-scale murals that have been painted onto water towers in Gulargambone, New South Wales (artist, Jenny McCracken); Winton, Victoria (artist, Guido Van Helten); Narrandera, New South Wales (artists from Apparition Media); and Snowtown, South Australia (artist, Vans the Omega).
This stamp issue is the third by Australia Post to feature large-scale public mural art. The first, Street Art (2017), focused on urban street art in Melbourne and Adelaide. This was followed by Silo Art, in 2018, which topped the Australian Stamp Poll for that year. One of the silo murals featured, located in Thallon, Victoria, took artists Drapl and The Zookeeper three weeks, working 10 hours a day. Guided only by an A4-size impression, the artwork consumed 500 litres of paint and 500 spray cans. Another silo mural, in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia, took artist Amok Island 31 days to complete, requiring 338 litres of paint and a boom lift.
There’s a level of irony is portraying mammoth artworks on tiny stamps, but even at a small scale, the impressive nature of these creations is evident. One way that water tower art, silo art and rural street art can be explored and appreciated at full size is via the Australian Silo Art trail, which coordinates and promotes the artwork tourist trails found across country Australia.
Perhaps like the planning for the murals themselves, the Australian Silo Art Trail started small. It began when not-for-profit cultural organisation FORM WA, organised for artists to paint working grain handling sites (owned by CBH Group) in the wheatbelt town of Northam, Western Australia, in 2015. These silos collectively formed the PUBLIC Silo Trail of Western Australia. The concept eventually caught on nationally, with four other states (South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland) now boasting their own silo art trails, and many also adding water tower and street art into the mix. In many cases these art-covered landmarks have revitalised small, drought-stricken rural towns and communities.
One of the promoters of the Australian Silo Art Trail is Annette Green, who was of great assistance to the philatelic researcher who worked on the Water Tower Art stamp issue.
"Silo art is an exciting way of promoting tourism in regional Australia, but it's not just about the silo art, it's about our great collection of water towers and regional street art too. With every new location added to our ‘trail’, more towns are linked together, creating an ultimate journey through regional Australia," says Annette.
Annette, and husband Eric, were captivated by a visit to the Ravensthorpe silos. So much so, that they eventually became regional tourism ambassadors for the Australian Silo Art Trail.
"When we stood in the shadow of our first painted silo we were totally captivated by its beauty, grandeur and artistry and could not wait to see another. Information about the location of Australia's other silos was limited, with no national website for tourists to research and plan their trips. As a lover of the artform and of travelling in regional Australia, we decided to launch the Australian Silo Art Trail to help promote these great works of art and the towns they are located in," says Annette.
The calibre of the artists involved, many with international profiles, has assisted in putting many of these projects on the national and international map, though it does mean that funding such projects requires a collaborative effort. However, such collaboration is not just about funding, it’s also about creating a project that is very much rooted in the community. An example of this is Brisbane artist Guido van Helten’s silo mural in Brim, Victoria, which was the first silo art in eastern Australia. The 30-metre monochromatic murals depict four Brim farmers. The project was a collaboration between the artist, silo owner GrainCorp, and local community organisation the Brim Active Group. 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.
Another such collaboration is the water tower mural in the small Riverina town of Narrandera, New South Wales. The water tower overlooking the town was painted over 11 days in 2019 by a team of four artists from Apparition Media. The project was funded under the federal government’s Drought Communities Program, and the design was the result of consultation with local young people and artists, including Wiradjuri artist Owen Lyons.
While street art may be typically viewed as an urban medium, street art towns are emerging across Australia, from Benalla and Yarram, in Victoria, to Mundurah, Western Australia. Yarram, ravaged by the recent devastating bushfires and then a decline in tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic, had many of its streetscapes transformed throughout March 2020 by internationally renowned street artist Heesco Khosnaran. Tumby Bay, in South Australia, has even developed a community festival based around its street art.
The Street Art stamp issue (2017) highlighted where the idea for wonderful large-scale artworks began: urban centres. With origins in unsanctioned graffiti, street art evolved into a sophisticated range of practices, including stencil art, poster art, spray painting, yarn bombing and installation art. The four artists featured on the stamps (Adnate, Vans the Omega, Fin DAC, and Rone and Phibs) are internationally respected artists and the incredible artworks featured adorn the streets of Melbourne and Adelaide.
What all of these large-scale public artworks have in common is that they are remarkable works of art that transform plain expanses of concrete and brick in vibrant community spaces and provide a boost to tourism.
"These artworks more than just a beautiful addition to the local landscape, for many towns and communities it's a lifeline. Many regional towns across Australia are struggling due to loss of business infrastructure, drought, bush fires and now COVID-19. Towns that have decided to join the trail are now seeing an increase in tourism, which boosts community incomes and community spirit," says Annette.
Annette is also excited about the upcoming stamp issue featuring water tower art.
“The Australian Silo Art Trail is one of this country's greatest untapped tourism assets. Exposure such as the Water Tower Art stamp issue helps to bring about more public awareness of these great Australian treasures.”
This content was produced at the time of the stamp issue release date and will not be updated.