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Legendary street artist Guido van Helten will be in Stanthorpe in May, as part of the First Coat Festival. His appearance at this hugely popular street art festival has been made possible by The Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery, in partnership with Kontraband Studios.

The Brisbane born artist recently made world headlines when he painted a striking portrait in an incinerator in Chernobyl as part of the 30th anniversary commemorations. The piece, which was created in six hours, was the first street art mural permitted inside the disaster zone. “It’s just an eerie feeling to know there is this constant threat of radiation around,” said Guido. “I had an underlying sense of feeling uncomfortable. Usually I always wear a mask but I don’t need full-length clothes. Some of the other people who were there were just wearing T-shirts.” Guido said the mural was created with the assistance of Chernobyl district authorities, and military officials kept him under close watch while at the reactor.

Back home, Guido attracted attention with his 30 metre high mural depicting four farmers in regional Victoria. Created on disused wheat silos overlooking the tiny, drought-stricken Wimmera community of Brim, visitors drive for hours to see the giant artwork.

Stanthorpe Art Gallery Director Nicola Holly is excited about the street art project. “Guido is one of the best contemporary artists in the country and we are extremely proud to welcome him to Stanthorpe,” she said. “We had an overwhelming positive response to our first mural in February by ‘Drapl’ and want to continue placing public works of art in the region. Murals are the best way to bring colour and life into a town; they uplift people and create a sense of civic pride in the region. We’re hoping to bring more talented artists to Stanthorpe as the year continues.”

Two years ago, curator Grace Dewar kicked off the First Coat street art festival – an event that’s seen more than 50 walls in Toowoomba given mural makeovers from street artists – from a purple Steve Irwin on the side of an empty lot, to a two-storey high elephant in a laneway off the main street. The event is now branching out to other regions, and Stanthorpe is proud to be one of the first ‘satellite murals’ in the expansion. “We are very flattered and honoured that First Coat invited Stanthorpe to be a part of their festival,” said Nicola. “We would like to thank them for their efforts in bringing such an incredible artist to our region.”

Catch Guido van Helten painting at 16 Maryland Street, Stanthorpe on 26 and 27 May.

Words by Gemma Easton
Image supplied by Stanthorpe Regional Gallery