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Reaching new heights: watch the story behind Guido van Helten’s mural masterpiece


Jessica Nelson
14 June 2018

Have you ever taken a photo then thought ‘this deserves to be on the side of a building’?

Mural artist Guido van Helten has transformed more than 60 powerful images into huge industrial yet intricate artworks, leaving his giant footprint across the globe.

Most of the photos he takes himself, followed by the mural process taking anywhere from a few hours, such as the commissioned piece inside the abandoned Chernobyl plant, to a few weeks, resulting in masterpieces such as the 50-metre ‘Nations’ tower in Nashville.

In February, the Brisbane-raised artist returned to his own patch in South East Queensland for a month and 50 litres of paint, transforming two walls of Southern Cross University’s 10-storey building at its Gold Coast campus, with a breathtaking view of Kirra Beach from his boomlift.

The lifelike figures of a man and a woman grew into iconic attractions during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April, and with more than two million passengers travelling through the Gold Coast Airport since the artwork began and thousands driving past on the highway each day, the eye-catching mural has told each viewer a different story, depending on their interpretation.

In May, Guido revisited Southern Cross University’s Gold Coast community to debrief from the creative labour, with local high school students hitting him up with questions about his concept development and sourcing paint for his earthy palate.

Today the University will release the video detailing how these master hands unveiled this master plan. View the video here.

The former student graduated from Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus in 2008, where he studied Visual Arts with a focus on printmaking and electives in public art. He said he was honoured the University would trust him to paint the side of its tallest building.

“I come from a history of growing up using spray-paint and working outdoors, but now I do public artwork, working with images of people intended to capture the imagination,” he said.

“Photography is at the root of all my work, which in a way is similar to printmaking where I take a photo then abstract it through process. I’ve started to take lots of photos around the world, wherever I go adopt a photojournalistic approach of the people in each place, which all influences the design.

“The reason this one doesn’t depict a face in the same way other pieces do, is so people can derive their own meaning and their own story from the work.”

Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said Guido van Helten was and always will be a member of the University community.

“Guido has spent the last decade painting major murals across Europe, Asia, America and Australia, for ever-increasing audiences and has perfected an incredible, photo-realist style of painting by hand, and we are honoured he has left his mark here for all to see,” Professor Shoemaker said.

“Here is an artist who has gone from graffiti art to distinctive, large-scale works which are superb.

“The 10-storey high portrait is of two figures looking into the future, into the buildings, into the campus. It signals the openness and excellence of Australian talent and it is stunning. We should have more of it at the Gold Coast.”