Guido Van Helten has been painting a giant mural on the Wellington Dam in Western Australia. The mural is enormous, covering 8000 square metres. It’s a project that Van Helten has been working on since November 2020. The artwork will form a key part of the Collie Mural Trail, a series of street art pieces created around the nearby town of Collie.
As far as street art pieces go this is a big one. Australia is already known for it’s massive street art. Silos and water towers across the country have been acting as canvasses for years now. Street art has been associated with tourism and a number of street art trails have appeared across the country. We’ve written about some of the Victorian ones in the Mallee and Benalla already.
Wellington Dam Mural
The Wellington Dam is fed by the Collie River. It is the largest dam in south west Australia and the second largest in the country. First built in 1933 it has since been extended and developed. Twice the storage capacity has been enlarged to meet demand. In 1956 the dam wall was raised by 15 metres and a hydro power station was added. The dam and the reservoir which sits behind it are key features of the local environment and its economy.
Painting a mural on a large canvas such as the Wellington Dam is no mean feat. Guido Van Helten comes with a good pedigree however. His silo art is hugely popular already. The artist has previously created large scale silo street art in small towns across the country. Places such as Brim in Victoria, Coonalpyn in South Australia and at the Portland Cement Works in New South Wales. He’s an artist who is known for his ability to paint large scale. It’s a skill he has honed through travelling the world painting massive murals for years.
Largest Dam Mural in the World
The Mural on the Wellington Dam might well be his largest to date. Certainly this piece is thought to be the largest dam mural in the world. Although at the moment there’s not that many dam murals that we know about. Maybe painting on dam walls will take off in the same way that silo art appears to have done. The Wellington Dam wall on which the mural is painted stands 34 metres high and 367 metres wide. Guido Van Helten’s mural covers an enormous 8000 square metres.
The mural itself is called ‘Reflections‘. It has been inspired by local stories and photographs which is similar to many of his works. Guido Van Helten is very much an artist who likes his art to be reflect a sense of history and community. He will often spend time in the local area before starting work. Getting to know the community where a mural will be placed. This is something he did in Collie, the nearest township to the dam.
Artists painting as part of the Collie Mural Trail had been asked to consider the town of Collie, aboriginal culture and the natural environment in their designs. This is what appears to be happening in Guido Van Helten’s mural on the Wellington Dam. At the heart of the work are children. None are looking at the camera, they are just busy playing, washing and interacting with the water. They are flanked on either side by adults. An aboriginal man looks over from the right. He may well have known the landscape before the dam was built. Across from the other side two men look towards the scene. Perhaps representing the first wave of European settlers into the area. Might they have been responsible for building the dam?
The children are where the mural centers though. They are perhaps unconcerned with the history of the onlookers. All they know is the water and the here and now. They are taking the opportunity to enjoy it. For them the dam will be all that they have known. Certainly there is a sense of the past and present about Guido Van Helten’s piece. Memories of a time before mixed with memories of life with the water.
The Wellington Dam Mural was painted by Guido Van Helten between November 2020 and February 2021. It is the largest dam mural in the world and part of the Collie Art Trail in Western Australia. All photos in this post have been kindly provided courtesy of Leesa Sutherland