The painting that changed Aussie town

Guido is known for changing the places he’s painted.
Guido is known for changing the places he’s painted.

IT'S hard to say what would've been going through Guido van Helten's head when he pulled into Brim, a remote Victorian town of less than 200 people.

The Brisbane-born artist has turned himself into an international name in the art world by painting photorealistic murals across the globe from Italy to Ukraine.

But some of his most beloved works are right here in Australia - especially his 30-metre-high mural the Queenslander painted on a collection of rundown silos.

The town, which only had 100 people in it at the time, was in need of a revitalisation - something Guido has done time and time again.

Immediately after he finished the project, in January 2016, people who had never even heard of the town Brim began to flock to the once-quiet destination.


Photos of his works are spread across social media as people come far and wide to get a glimpse of the Brisbane artist's works.

Before Guido even touches a spray can or his boom lift, he spends weeks in the place he's going to paint, speaking to locals and getting a feel for who or what's important.

He's essentially painting blind - waiting for inspiration to hit - which it always does.

"These sort of towns, I often drove around, but I would just drive straight past," he told ABC.

"I've often wondered, what's it like? What are the people like? Who lives here?" Guido added, referring to Brim.


In March last year, Guido visited Coonalypn in South Australia, another tiny rural town.

After a week of wandering the community of 300 people, he eventually decided on four vibrant kids from Coonalpyn Primary School.

That mural, which he painted on silos that were still operational, was much more difficult. But that doesn't mean it didn't pay off.

Immediately after they were finished, the town's manager said dozens of cars were stopping in the tiny community to spend their money there and visit the artwork.

"The stopping rate is 40 per hour and we're getting lots of great feedback from the businesses because everyone is benefiting," Coorong Council Project Manager Nat Traeger said.


Guido has visited, and revitalised, a number of rural or marginalised towns across the globe.

A year ago, he headed out to the rural NSW town of Manildra to paint on a series of working freight trains.

He did it so families in rural towns, that mightn't get the opportunity to visit Australian cities and their museums, would have the opportunity to see street art.

But it isn't just silos and trains that the Brisbane artist paints.

Guido's incredible process of creating a massive jigsaw with a handful of shipping containers was unveiled in Dubai in May last year.

The installation took a total of 288 hours to complete and was eventually inspired by a man Guido came across working near the construction site.


And next on Guido's hit list is a mammoth project in his own state.

As a Southern Cross University alumnus, it seemed inevitable that Guido would eventually return to paint one of his old uni's buildings.

While Guido studied at the Lismore campus of Southern Cross University, the Gold Coast section of the uni and its 10-storey building will be the place lucky enough to score a Guido exclusive.

The campus is next-door neighbours with the Gold Coast airport meaning the mural won't just be visible from the beach and the uni - anyone flying in or out of the Queensland destination will be able to see it from their plane.

Guido will start painting the 43-metre high blank canvas on March 6 and will take at least two weeks to complete the mammoth painting.

"What is most interesting about this project is reflecting people's connection with their built environment, which in my previous work has often been on industrial sites, but in this case it's a social and very interactive modern space where people come to learn and grow," Guido said.

Guido is heading back to his home state to paint his latest mural.
Guido is heading back to his home state to paint his latest mural.

But of course, before he does all that, Guido will spend time at the university and in the Gold Coast, trying to figure out who he'll paint.

It'll always be a mystery though - a number of people Guido has forever immortalised as a mural have been kept secret.

"If you leave the anonymity to these people and people see whoever they want to see, they can have their own connection to the work," he told ABC after dozens of people raised questions about his Brim stars.

But when it comes to the Gold Coast, Guido is also planning on relying on the space.

"I work by bringing a lot of influence from the site, so I want to use that style of architecture and that modern look to influence the design in a way that suits the site and place. It will be something that is very different to what I've done before, which I'm excited about."

Guido's work of art will be finished just in time for the Commonwealth Games, which are due to kick off on the Gold Coast on April 4.

And a similar story to the way Guido conducts his career has also been nominated for an Oscar at this year's Academy Awards.

Faces Places, a French documentary directed by Agnes Varda and JR, follows the two artists travelling around rural France where they create portraits and murals of people they come across.

The film, described as an "unassuming masterpiece", mirrors the way Guido revitalises and listens to the voices of people living in rural or often marginalised communities.

Guido's Gold Coast mural is expected to be finished by March 17.

The artist doesn't just paint in Australia. This is work he did in Dharavi.
The artist doesn't just paint in Australia. This is work he did in Dharavi.

Topics:  art australia mural rural

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Byron Bay Lighthouse run is spreading the joy

SWEET DEAL: Organiser of the Byron Lighthouse Run with film maker and anti-sugar campaigner Damon Gameau.

Byron Bay Lighthouse Run sends out support

Mental health survey for our entertainers

SURVEY: Entertainment Assist is conducting research into mental health among people working in the industry.

Findings will be used to develop a prevention framework

Confirmed: Matt Damon is NOT moving to Byron Bay

HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso arriving at the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California.

But the town gained an unexpected US marketing campaign

Local Partners