Manildra’s magic captured by famed street artist

Guido van Helten captures the spirit of Manildra


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Ronald "Fox" Bennett, who has worked at the Manildra flour mill for more than 20 years, features in Guido van Helten's latest work.

Ronald "Fox" Bennett, who has worked at the Manildra flour mill for more than 20 years, features in Guido van Helten's latest work.

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The artist behind Victoria’s famed Brim silos stopped in the tiny Central West town of Manildra this week to create a series of works.

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THE artist behind Victoria’s famed Brim silos stopped in the tiny Central West town of Manildra this week to create a series of works which capture the spirit of the magical flour mill town.

Since Monday Guido van Helten has been busy spray-painting the faces of Manildra’s local heroes – mill diesel mechanics and train drivers, farmers and artists – on the sides of rail wagons owned by the Manildra Group.

“It’s not too planned. It’s everyday people. These people do belong here, they belong on that train. I like the simplicity of that,” Mr van Helten said.

Tomorrow the wagons will be filled with flour and hitched to a train headed for Bomaderry, where the flour will be processed further.

On Wednesday, Mr van Helten had painted five portraits. He hopes to finish seven portraits by this afternoon.

Ron “Fox” Bennett, a Molong-born mill employee for more than 20 years, features on one wagon.

“I began here lifting bags of flour for export. One day we had a major breakdown and we lost power to the lifeline which fed the wheat into the mill. I had trained as a mechanic so I fixed the problem and I’ve been a member of the workshop ever since,” he said.

“When I first started with the mill we were doing five tonnes an hour. Now, we’re doing more than 80t/hr. How times have changed.”

Another Ron, train driver “Ronnie” Nicka, features on another. Mr Nicka began working at the mill in 1984, when he was just 18.

“I saw Guido around the tracks and I said ‘how do I get my face on here?’ He said, stand there and I’ll paint you on there,” Mr Nicka said.

“It’s just great.”

The portraits will weave their way through the Central West to the South Coast twice a week. The Land’s readers may one day give way to the two Rons at a rail crossing one day.

Exactly one year ago Mr van Helten began work on a breathtaking mural in Brim, Victoria. The mural stretched 30 metres by 30m on decommissioned GrainCorp silos. Tourists have flocked to the town (with a population of just 260) ever since.

Guido van Helten's famed mural in Brim, Victoria.

Guido van Helten's famed mural in Brim, Victoria.

Van Helten has done similar giant portraits in Ukraine, Norway, Italy, Denmark and Iceland.

“There’s an old idea that mural art belongs in the city. I enjoy industrial sites and bringing identity to these structures. People spend their whole lives working on these sites so it’s very interesting to me to blend them together,” Mr van Helten said. 

The artists’ work at Manildra will feature in an upcoming ABC series called The Wanderers. It will be aired on ABC iview early next year.

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