It’s time to get exploring, as the verdant paddocks of South Gippsland have gained exquisite new residents.
Maybe you can spot the Big Farmer and The Holy Cow, a sculptural installation by father and son artists Trevor and Louis Wheeler that represents the passing of time and the cyclical nature of the seasons.
The Great Southern Bale Trail is an innovative collaboration between local artists and farmers as part of a Covid-19 Creative and Cultural Arts Program. Created by the South Gippsland Shire, the initiative aims to showcase and support Gippsland-based artists whilst promoting local tourism. All six installations have been made from silage, old farm machinery, or existing fencing or sheds and are based around the theme of ‘seasonal cycles’.
Located in Sandy Point, Trevor, a well-known metal artist, was joined by his son Louis at the onset of the pandemic — together the duo, who have deep connections in the Prom Coast community, have created a strong yet whimsical installation. The piece depicts glyph-like floating farmer stick figures and surprised cow faces emerging out of old farm machinery gathered or gifted by the host farmer.
“...only to grow bolder in patina and character...”
Steel rods from the cattle yards are reminiscent of the wild rains on the plains, while rusty cogs rescued from a 70-year-old potato planter form part of a large radiant sun structure. A discarded hot water service from the old dairy provided beautifully aged copper that forms the grasses, and the repurposed ‘bails’ from the milking calf pens complete this quirky Wizard of Oz–like sculpture.
Scrap is used as a springboard for recycling and reinventing new life. The duo spent hours pulling things apart, examining the incredible engineering of old farm machinery and carefully re-crafting their new treasures. In many ways, the found pieces revealed the sculpture to the artists.
An abandoned piece of metal is reborn in the hands of Louis and Trevor — only to grow bolder in patina and character, like the farmers and animals that walk the land.
“There is a perfect blend of abandon and control. The farmer attempts to control the various impacts of the seasons but at times is required to surrender to the elements. The seasons are in fact the machine driving everything,” says Trevor.
The special bond shared between father and son is palpable — each brings his own vision to the piece. Louis shares that he feels honoured to receive the skill passed on by his father — an intergenerational, almost traditional way of learning, frequent amongst farming families. Interestingly the farmer’s wife, Mohya Davies, once taught Louis at the local kindergarten.
You can find Big Farmer and The Holy Cow located in the dairying and grazing town of Foster at Tynacya Farm, a third-generation family farm owned and managed by John and Mohya that overlooks the much-loved Wilson’s Promontory.
Tynacya, which means ‘House in the Fields’ in Welsh, is made up of approximately 400 acres with 65 acres of conservation wetlands. This parcel of land, once considered waste, was selected over 100 years ago by John’s grandfather John Davies, an early pioneer of the region.
John and Mohya have resided on their family farm for almost 40 years, raising their six children. They are now proud grandparents to eight grandchildren. A large part of the operation is the supply to Prom Meats, the family’s long-established retail butcher shop in Foster where John specialises in ethically and sustainably preparing and supplying Gippsland natural beef and lamb. Mohya has also served as a local councillor and taught in early education.
The title of the installation Big Farmer and The Holy Cow almost pays homage to farmers like the Davies family.
You can pull over comfortably and walk to the Big Farmer and The Holy Cow; the installation stands as a triptych in relief amongst the rugged landscape. Trevor and Louis have blended a sense of humour in the shapes, while still depicting the somewhat harsh nature of farming and the seasons.
The Great Southern Bale Trail can be viewed until June 30 2021. You can click the link to find out more about the various artists’ and farmers’ stories on southgippsland.vic.gov.au/gsbt.
Other installations include:
Artwork: Goose and Gosling by Amanda Diamond
Farmers: Anna Briggs and Chris Muggeridge from Flock, Stock and Basil
Artwork: Paint hay while the sun shines by Rachel Warren
Farmer: Marty Lamers
Artwork: WooMoo and Poppy by Meg Viney and the community of Wooreen
Farmers: Half the town of Wooreen
Artwork: Pearlescence by Anne Miller
Farmers: Pat and Keith Khume from Bushlea
Artwork: Coming Home by Corey Thomas
Farmers: Young Ted and Sharyn Allott