The Red Centre is home to some of Australia’s most iconic sights, from monolithic Uluru – rising 348 metres above the desert sands – to the ochre-coloured domes of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Now, 500-million-years later, a new icon has emerged in the outback – the Field of Light.
The work of British-Australian artist Bruce Munro, the Field of Light at Ayers Rocks Resort (known as Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara) burst onto the scene like a meteor in the sky in 2016, a dazzling blaze of colour and light.
We chatted with Munro about the inspiration for this spectacular artwork, its creation, and how it has changed the way that people from all walks of life view and interact with the outback.
“I am truly overwhelmed that the Field of Light has been so well received,” Munro says. “It sounds a bit hokey but I just responded to a landscape which inspired my imagination.”
The Field of Light. Credit: Bruce Munro Studio
Munro says living and travelling around Australia in his 20s and 30s allowed him to shape his own identity, and it continues to guide him on his artistic journey some 30 years later.
“I lived in Sydney in the 80s when I was younger, doing all sorts of jobs such as brick laying, in a gym, and as a chef. You know what you do as a kid. I just took everything on. And one day while I was working as an illustrator in Balmain, I quite literally found light – I stumbled across it walking down the street in the city, and there was a display shop which caught my eye.
“This light kept winking at me from the window. I found out it was a plastic that glows under an ultraviolet light. I found out where it came from and started making signage and displays on the floor of my flat. My work was eventually spotted by an advertising agency and they featured it in one of their events. After that the phone calls just came in.”
The inspiration for the Field of Light came on holiday in the NT with his wife Serena back in 1992, with the beauty and spirituality of Uluru and the Top End leaving a lasting impression.
“Uluru was a major inspiration for me; it completely got under my skin. There’s this connection I have to the landscape. When I got back to the UK, I was obsessed about trying to recreate this feeling, this idea of the energy I felt and the clarity of light at Uluru.”
“People used to say things about Uluru like ‘Ahh, it’s just a big red rock’. But I’m so glad that I went out to see that big red rock, that I didn’t listen to that flippant point of view, because I wouldn’t be doing what I am now.”
It took Munro 12 years to fully realise his vision – and it’s now as iconic as its inspiration.
The silhouette of Uluru and the Field of Light. Credit: Bruce Munro Studio
“I created the Field of Light in my backyard and never thought it would go beyond there. I thought I’d exorcised it. Gradually people started calling to have it featured in different locations.”
“One day I got a call from a lady from the ABC in Alice Springs, because she heard the inspiration for the Field of Light was Uluru, and that led to a conversation with Voyages, who wanted to feature it in their resort.”
Though originally installed as a temporary exhibition, it was soon extended, and extended, and will now remain at the site indefinitely due to popular demand. To date more than 500,000 people have visited the site, viewing the 50,000 spindles of light that breathe and sway through a myriad of colours from ochre to deep violet, blue and gentle white.
Munro’s artworks have since been viewed in dozens of countries across the globe.
Bruce and Serena Munro at the Field of Light. Credit: Bruce Munro Studio
Reflecting on the success of his most famous artwork today, Munro believes the reason so many have been drawn to it is because it’s a quiet piece – it doesn’t tell you what to think.
“It allows one to listen and see the nature that inspired it,” he says.
Though 2020 has put a temporary stop on the opportunity for most people to view the Field of Light, it’s still waiting for us, and Munro has been using his time to work on new artworks.
“I’ve had a very productive year working on a variety of pieces for venues around the world, including Australia. I can’t wait to bring them to fruition. I feel it’s time to switch off the darkness!”
Want to see the Field of Light in person? Check out our Red Centre tours here.