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Light installations by Bruce Munro recreate the intimate experience of storytelling

The UK-based installation artist Bruce Munro plays with the elements of light to invite the viewers to take a pause and experience the invisible parts of the built environment.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Nov 10, 2022

The origin of the axiom let there be light, let there be life rooted in the many theological texts has paved the way for an array of associations and binaries - light/dark, light/life, light/divine, light/merry, light/summer and dark/death, dark/devil, dark/melancholy, dark/winter. During the 17th century, the age of Enlightenment furthered this notion of opposition lurking between illuminating white and harrowing black. Albeit it was the arrival to the point of dualism in the same century - not opposition but coexistence - which blurred the lines of distinction to underline the importance of both light and dark. Piercing through swathes of darkness the streaks of light could be made visible. Successfully treading a similar path of working with lights is the UK-based immersive art installation artist Bruce Munro.

Bruce Munro, Mountain Lights, Japan 2022  | Bruce Munro | STIRworld
Bruce Munro, Mountain Lights, Japan 2022 Image: Serena Munro , © Bruce Munro

Light, when it is a choice of material to create a piece of work, lends the visual artist the liberty to play with the built environment in an effort to showcase the unknown under the lens of novelty. Munro, known for immersive large-scale installations, draws his inspiration from the collective human experience. For over three decades, the light artist has documented his personal responses to creative pieces such as music, literature, science and everyday life. Over these years, the moments of self-introspection have served as the references and subjects in his installations. What the viewers see are "both monumental temporary experiential artworks as well as intimate story-pieces".

Bruce Munro, Light-Towers Sensorio,  2020 | Bruce Munro | STIRworld
Bruce Munro, Light-Towers Sensorio, 2020 Image: Serena Munro; © Bruce Munro

The "glowscapes" Munro builds have punctuated the cities in the United States, the UK, Australia, and South Korea. The global artist reconfigures the ordinary objects and mundane materials and manipulates the light to open an opportune moment for the audience to experience the hitherto unknown. For the British artist, the larger-scale installations by nature tend to be immersive, but the inspiration begins with an experience or emotion that he tries to convey to the audience. “Artworks are not created by rote; they evolve with one’s life," elucidates Munro in an interview with STIR. “Water-Towers was initially inspired by a book I read in 1980, titled Gifts of Unknown Things: A True Story of Nature, Healing, and Initiation from Indonesia's Dancing Island by Lyall Watson. The first iteration was in 2012 (Salisbury Cathedral), where a lot of water had passed under the bridge in 32 years!,” he mentions. As a tribute to Watson, the installation Water-Towers comprise 69 towers which change colour as a response to the music emanating from them. Moreover, the music from many nations emphasises the power of diversity and inclusion inherent within the flow of rhythms. The towers are about two meters tall and made from over 200-stacked water bottles illuminated by optic fibres. The tall towers could be easily substituted as a replica of the enormous liquid batteries of the light prescribed in the maze. 

Bruce Munro’s Portrait  | Bruce Munro | STIRworld
Artist Bruce Munro Image: Serena Munro

The light installation Green Flash is a monumental geodesic sphere - emanating the 1820 empty PET bottles. A single fibre optic cable illuminates all the bottles of the light art installation. Interestingly, the green rays are the natural and optical phenomena, which sporadically occur right after sunset or right before sunrise. To mention, the green flashes have been ingrained in his memory of Munro since his childhood, translated into the installation Green Flash via creative imagination. When the artist lived in Australia in his 20s, he once again witnessed the natural phenomena of green light during the times of sunrise and sunset. To immortalise these moments, Munro would shoot the green flash with his digital camera. The installation recreates the occurrences with 1820 illuminated bottles. 

Bruce Munro, Green Flash, Longwood Gardens, 2022 | Bruce Munro| STIRworld
Bruce Munro, Green Flash, Longwood Gardens, 2022 Image: Serena Munro, © Bruce Munro

Munro acutely uses the process of repetition to create an immersive experience that for a while freezes time for the viewers. But it is the element of light that anchors the emotive and experiential journey for the viewer. This is visible in the mixed media installation Don’s Flamingos and Ramandu’s Table: a homage piece to Don Featherstone. The pink plastic flamingo for Munro encapsulates "kitsch". The bright pink flamingo during the day gains a new life as its skin illuminates under the expanse of the UV light reflecting on the high shine surface of the pool. The soundtrack of hundreds of flamingo calls accompanies the installation. The experimental and playful theme available in the installation is also seen in Gathering of Clans and Minnesota Gathering

Bruce Munro, Bruce Munro, Ramandus, Longwood Gardens, 2022 | Bruce Munro | STIRworld
Bruce Munro, Ramandus, Longwood Gardens, 2022 Image: Serena Munro; © Bruce Munro

The immersive installations emerge from the intersection of technology, art installations and community only to pause and ponder. In a similar spirit, the installations for Future Light at Hanazono were inspired by ‘time’, “my journey as both artist and literal traveller of the physical world,” says Munro. The installations could be seen as a site to draw momentary attention pinned with an extremely impalpable sense of connection. Yet, Munro is cognizant of not losing sight of luck with which his work could bring a positive experience. 

Bruce Munro: Light at Sensorio, 2022 Video: Courtesy of Bruce Munro
Field of Light installation at Uluru Video: Courtesy of Bruce Munro

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