Glowing the sacred

Bruce Munro's glittering field of dreams

Text by Paul Davies

Photography by Mark Pickthall

Light artist, Bruce Munro likes to think big, and with each project the vision grows larger. A decade ago, he attached 300 chemical light sticks to a huge bunch of party balloons and had them interact with the fireflies at sunset on a Barbadian beach. He appealed to the public in 2010, who donated 600,000 unwanted CDs to create a "sea" of reflective discs in a public field. Last year, he created a maze of water-filled bottle towers that changed colour to music in the cloisters of Salisbury's 12th century cathedral. Many of these concepts have been incorporated into his first one-man show spanning 23 acres of Philadelphia's Longwood Gardens, involving more than seven enormous outdoor installations and five sculptures. This ends in September and Munro is currently busy preparing to realise a dream he first conjured up two decades earlier whilst travelling through central Australia. In the next iteration of his ongoing Field of Light series, he plans to cover a square kilometre of ground surrounding Uluru, the formidable inselberg that is considered sacred ground by the local Anangu aborigines.

"The Red Desert had this remarkable sense of energy as we travelled through it," he recalls. "Ideas seemed to radiate from it with the heat. And they are incongruous environments, appearing barren and infertile. All that changes when it rains."Field of Light, Uluru will involve a quarter of a million solar-powered light stems that shift colour spectrums through fibre optic cables. Munro sees these as akin to "dormant seeds in a desert, quietly waiting until darkness falls. Soon after which, they will gently flicker into activity and power down again after approximately four hours." In line with previous editions, Munro works sympathetically with the surroundings to convey its natural features. He is utilising a colour palette of ochre, burnt sienna and midnight purples to enhance the environment. "Looking from above, the circular arrangement resembles the pointillist drawings of the indigenous tribes," he explains. Public participation is again invited by making the light stems available to purchase, and it is planned to run from May to September 2013.

The beauty here is in the ephemeral nature of such installations, as with the fading of daylight or inevitable changing of seasons. And, unlike so much public art that feels obliged to demand attention, Munro's work - quietly beguiling and discreetly sensual - leaves a lasting impression long after the power has been switched off. §
Field of Light on Vimeo

  • Light Artist – Bruce Munro #1
  • Light Artist – Bruce Munro #2
  • Light Artist – Bruce Munro #3
  • Camper