For 15 years, British artist Bruce Munro has illuminated landscapes around the world with his fanciful Field of Light installations. Comprising myriad glowing orbs, each site-specific work of art accentuates its surroundings while also shedding light on the “shared human experience”—a concept at the core of Munro's latest luminous project, Field of Light at Sensorio.
Field of Light at Sensorio is set along a hillside in picturesque Paso Robles, a city nestled in California's Wine Country. In order to highlight the contours and curves of the local landscape, Munro employed nearly 60,000 solar-powered LED lights. As they glimmer and glisten, the bulbs breathe new life into the scenery, enabling visitors to experience their surroundings in an ethereal new way and, above all else, bringing “a bit of joy and connection to people.”
Sprawled over 15 acres, Field of Light at Sensorio is Munro's largest installation to date. To learn more about this monumental project, we had the chance to speak to the acclaimed artist. In My Modern Met’s exclusive interview below, Munro reveals the inspiration behind Field of Light, and touches on the dazzling details that make Sensorio one of his most special projects to date.
Your immersive installations speak to the “shared human experience” through the use of light. What inspired you to make this connection?
Shortly after my father’s death in 1999, I decided I needed to do something that really mattered to me. At that time, I had been working commercially in light since 1986, although I was educated in art school as a painter. I noticed from my sketchbooks that I felt most connected with the world when I was immersed within the natural landscape. I decided to bring these experiences of connection to fruition using light as my medium. Especially as a young person, my head was full of all kinds of competing ideas, and since light as a medium is so pure and true I felt it gave me consistency and focus. I have always felt that Art connects us and has the ability to show us how similar we are…it promotes empathy and compassion.
Like all of your work, Field of Light at Sensorio is a site-specific installation. How does it complement the Paso Robles landscape?
One of my interests is discovering how the natural landscape changes the character of an installation. The land at Paso Robles is a rhythmical undulating landscape and it produced a lovely surprise; as one looks along the valley, one’s perspective creates the illusion of an increased density of the stems at the top of every contour. It looks as if the landscape has literally been drawn in light .
This piece is your largest work to date. In what ways does scale play a role in your practice?
The scale is simply dictated by the land the installation inhabits. A larger scale installation creates the illusion that one is completely immersed . . . it’s a kind of physical magical realism.
Did this increased size pose any technical problems or new challenges?
I do have a pragmatic nature and love a challenge . . . but the truth is, we had two amazing patrons: Ken & Bobbi Hunter and also Steve Deferville, a tremendously talented site project manager. These installations draw upon many people with talents; we all have our role to play .
Besides its scale, how does Sensorio differ from your past Field of Light installations?
Every Field of Light installation is different because of the landscape it inhabits. These installations are ephemeral, a collection of repeated materials created by many hands. Like theatre at its very best.
In what ways can visitors engage with the work? What do you hope they take away from these interactions?
I hope that the experience allows people to relax and enjoy the shared experience and to walk away with a feeling of inner peace and harmony . . . a gently illuminated landscape that is framed by a star studded sky. I would encourage people to be inspired by nature because it truly holds all the answers!
We are big fans of Field of Light! What do you see for the future of the series?
Thank you for saying that! I am fortunate enough to be busy for the next few years.. The Field of Light at Uluru (formerly Ayer’s Rock) is still going strong and an exhibition of eight exterior installations called “Tropical Light” will traverse the downtown area of Darwin, Northern Territories, Australia, opening in November.
There is an iteration of Field of Light, especially built for a very windy location, at Light Art Flash on Jeju Island, South Korea that continues another year. There is also an exhibition of recent works at Messums Gallery, Wiltshire, UK in December and an exhibition at Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina, USA, in April 2020.
I have four other large projects that are at the planning stage . . . almost every day brings another opportunity. But time is moving on and I have so much that I want to do.