Seeing the light

Field of light Uluru is the realisation of a 24-year dream for artist Bruce Munro, who has transformed part of Australia's 'Red Centre' into a canvas of epic proportions.

Uluru. The literal heart of Australia. Cared for by the traditional owners, Anangu, for tens of thousands of years.

Something about this spiritual heartland – a feeling, for want of a better word – defies explanation.

British artist Bruce Munro experienced that ‘feeling’ more than two decades ago, and it was so profound it triggered within him a passion for artistic expression.

Despite his love of art and drawing, Bruce didn’t have faith in his ability to make a career out of it. After graduating from Bristol Polytechnic with a Bachelor Degree in Fine Art in 1982, Bruce worked in an art gallery until wanderlust led him to Australia for what was intended to be a six-month holiday.

What he didn’t anticipate was that while here, he would realise he could earn a living from his passion for light. For Bruce, light became the medium to express his thoughts and ideas.

“Light for me is like paint and canvas to a painter,” he said. “Light is a medium that describes our reality and there’s something very poetic about that.

“I love the ephemeral nature of my work – you can flick a switch and it’s gone.”

During his time in Australia, Bruce focused on developing illuminated displays for retailers and exhibitions. In 1992 he decided to visit Uluru as a swansong of sorts, before returning to the UK. That was the turning point in his life.

“Field of Light is a reflection of what I felt when I saw Uluru for the first time,” Bruce said. “It was a life-changing moment.”

With journals filled with drawings of his impressions of Uluru, and ideas that wouldn’t be realised for more than 20 years, Bruce left Australia inspired to take a leap of faith and work as an artist full-time.

More than a decade later, his first Field of Light exhibition opened at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, followed by a larger iteration in a field behind his home.

“We left it up for a year to test it, and people began popping up at odd times to visit it. That’s when I began to notice that the gentle movement of the lights, not shimmering but almost breathing, created a response.”

Despite his success in the UK and abroad, Bruce still yearned to bring to life the drawings and ideas he’d had in Australia.

“Field of Light Uluru was one idea that landed in my sketchbook and kept on nagging at me to be done,” he said.

“I saw in my mind a landscape of illuminated stems that, like the dormant seed in a dry desert, quietly wait until darkness falls, under a blazing blanket of southern stars, to bloom with gentle rhythms of light.”

You don’t have to understand art to appreciate it. Watching the sun set over Uluru, the night sky illuminating more than 50,000 frosted-glass spheres spread over an area the size of four football fields, is breathtaking. Bruce has brought the desert to life in the most visually spectacular way, by mirroring the sky above.

And that’s just the view from a distance. Walking among the installation is an immersive experience.

“I’m passing on a feeling, not over-intellectualising it,” Bruce explained.

“Hopefully this will encourage people to come out to Uluru and be inspired like it inspired me.”

Bruce Munro’s Field of Light exhibition will be at Uluru until 31 December, 2020. RACQ Travel can help you plan your ultimate Uluru holiday.

Images by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.