Silo Art Trail Portland

Portland: Silo Art and WallNuts Murals

There are only seven painted silos in New South Wales and Portland is home to one of them. Less than half an hour from Lithgow, where we are staying, a drive to see the towering Portland Silo Artwork is high on my agenda.

Portland Cement Works

The Portland Cement works, now called The Foundations, operated from 1902 to 1991 and produced cement used throughout the building of Sydney. The town of Portland sprung up around the cement factory and became known as “the town that built Sydney”.

The Foundations and Silo Art Portland
Once was a Cement Works
The Foundations

Portland Silo Artwork

Using a different canvas from other Australian Silo Artworks, in Portland the huge monochrome artwork appears on eight tall cement bins as opposed to grain storage silos.

Painted by artist Guido Van Helten in early 2018, the work features five men and a woman who worked at the cement works.

Portland Silo Art by Guido Van Helten
Six Portland Residents depicted in Silo Art

Inspecting the Detailed Silo Art

I step out of the car and look up in awe at the extraordinary detail. While access to other silo artworks is often restricted, here I walk up to and around the silos. They tower overhead and I wonder at the skill required to create such a massive artwork.  

An elderly man, wearing a striped polo shirt, supports himself with a walking stick. Another, head bowed and eyes hidden by the brim of his hat looks down thoughtfully at the ground. I examine the patterning in a leather belt, the wrinkled aged skin of an arm and the fabric folds of the men’s shirts.   

The Foundations

In the Bath House, one of the old buildings which make up The Foundations, an exhibition of over 500 dolls owned by Portland resident Kaylin Caddis has just closed. I take my time wandering in and around the deserted buildings in the complex.

Art Deco Features of Portland's Local Pool
The Local Pool
The Portland Bandstand
Commemorative Bandstand

A local man explains to another couple how people “just come to see the silos and miss the best part of the town”. He points to the lake behind the silos and mentions the heritage kilns. I’ve read about the kilns and make a note to find them before leaving town.

Portland Pool and Bandstand

Across the road the art deco features of the local ‘Olympic Pool’ draw me in for a closer look. I wander into town, past a large parkland where there’s a new looking Bandstand. Donated by a community group it was opened in 2017 “in Memory of The Old Portland Bandstand”.  

Vintage Advertisements by WallNuts

Turning a corner, I’m delighted to discover old advertisements decorating the wall of the local supermarket. Wandering up and down the streets, I find more works brightening up walls and creating a welcoming environment.  

Historic Advertisements by WallNuts
Vintage Advertisements
Vintage Advertisements in Portland
WallNuts Artwork

Back in 2001, signwriter Ron Bidwell came up with the idea of recreating vintage signs on the town’s walls to attract visitors. He gathered a group of signwriting mates who spent a weekend painting old advertisements from 1895 to 1960 throughout the town.

“Signs of Yesteryear” were born. Besides the advertisements, there’s a tribute to the ANZACs on the wall of the RSL, old movie posters on the cinema lane and a team of horses decorating the ‘Men’s Convenience’.

Arnotts Advertisement and His Master's Voice by WallNuts in Portland
Biscuits and Music
Portland RSL Wall mural
On the RSL Wall

A couple of local men are tidying up the lawn outside the RSL. They tell me that a group of people regularly return to the town to touch up faded works and create new ones. Calling themselves the WallNuts, they continue the tradition started by Ron Bidwell. There’s even a WallNuts museum, but it’s closed today.

A Country Thickshake

After perusing the old wares in a curiosity shop, I make my way to the corner shop for a thick shake.

Vintage Advertisement by WallNuts
Billy Tea Anyone?
Mural of Draught Horses
Men’s Convenience

The young girl behind the counter may never have made a thick shake before. Her colleague helps her and there’s lots of laughter, and a few false starts. While it takes far too long to get it right, the end result is thick and rich and most enjoyable. I shudder to think how much ice cream went into making it.  

Finding the Brick Bottle Kilns

Following the road around the fenced in lake, I keep a look out for the heritage brick bottle kilns. The road passes fields with cows and horses and then turns into a suburban street. We have gone too far.

Lake at Cement Works Portland
The Lake
Heritage Bottle Kilns from Portland Cement Works
Bottle Kilns

Retracing our steps, we finally find the kilns. I am underwhelmed. They are easy to miss and hidden by undergrowth. A fence and tall grass and weeds prevent closer inspection.   

A Pleasant Day

Returning to Lithgow via Wallerawang and along the shore of Lake Wallace makes a pleasant end to a most enjoyable afternoon.

Street Scene Portland
31 Willawa Street

Enjoyed discovering Portland? Then you might like to discover the delights of Mudgee other than wine and food, or nearby Lithgow.

Comments

  1. Hi Joanne
    Just wondering if you have seen any of the other silo art in NSW.
    A group of us were thinking of doing a NSW Silo Crawl.

    1. Author

      Mmm. You’ve got me thinking,Lyn. I’ve seen Guido’s work on the watertowers in Charleville and Cunnamulla. There’s an interesting relationship between the two that I discovered when researching the Portland story. It’s about the sporting rivalry between the towns. We also came across a bright work in Thallon. We’ve also seen the work at Merriwa. Read more on my Sydney to Birdsville post under the Australia tab in the menu. I too want to do a silo trail but in Victoria.

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