Bruce Munro has always been in love with light. It’s an “essence” the artist has been chasing in his expansive and much-celebrated work for more than 30 years.
“If you think of it in very simple terms, flicking on a light switch is so immediate and it covers everything, and yet you can never touch it,” he says. “So there’s this lovely, whimsical quality about light, an ephemeral quality that I love.”
Munro’s large, immersive light-based installations have appeared at the Guggenheim New York, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and soon, with From Sunrise Road, at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne. It will be his first exhibition in an Australian museum, which in some ways is astonishing: Munro actually moved to Sydney in 1982 and spent a decade studying how natural light illuminates the landscape in different parts of the country. Perhaps his most well-known work, Field of Light in Uluruis an illuminated field of glowing stems installed near, and inspired by, the sacred site.
“[My time in] Australia really evolved me, and it gave me the chance to find out who I was, ”he says. “Which is why – to me – [the exhibition] is a sort of small thank you to Australia. ”
Showing from June 25 to October 16, From Sunrise Road includes more than 20 experiential indoor works and a spectacular outdoor work specifically designed for Heide’s sculpture park. The culminating exhibition, Munro says, “represents the journey that I’ve been on for a number of years”.
One of the works on display, Time and Place, uses a set of Munro’s archival photographs to explore the relationship between light and time. He explains, “I have a resource of 35 millimeter transparencies that I’d taken over the years, and I started to think about how these pixels of light that are trapped on film were kind of like a fly caught on a fly catcher, and that amused me.
“But it’s also the notion that we – in our lives – move through time and space, and we can really only be defined by these moments of catching ourselves. So I took three very arbitrary photos that I’d taken, and I broke those images down into their component parts. ” The result is a grid of changing light and color made up of more than 1000 magnetized tiles.
Another of Munro’s pieces showing at Heide is Ferryman’s Crossing I, an expansive dancing river of CDs that glints beneath pulses of light. His inspiration for this artwork came from the relationship between light and language. “It occurred to me one day, because I had just read a wonderful book by Hermann Hesse called Siddharthathat I could translate some of the beautiful language used in that book into Morse code, ”he says.
“What I’ve really been interested in is the way that artificial materials can reflect light from natural situations, so I decided to create a river. So in Heide, there is an abstraction of a river with Morse code flashed onto the CDs. It’s almost like a river of sparkling water moving past you. ”
From Sunrise Road offers an interactive experience designed to be appreciated by everyone, regardless of their art knowledge. “I try to take things that I found difficult as a child and repackage them into something that is hopefully more accessible and more palatable not only to myself but people around me,” he says.
Bruce Munro: From Sunrise Road is on at Heide Museum of Modern Art from Saturday June 25 until Sunday October 16. The exhibition will stay open until 8pm every Thursday to Saturday so visitors can view the illuminated outdoor work after dark. With a delicious, warming food and beverage offering from the Heide Cafe, guided tours every Friday night and a weekend of projections in collaboration with the Center for Projection Art, there is something to delight guests of all ages! Visit heide.com.au for more details and to book tickets.
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