Bruce Munro’s Field of Light At the Holburne Museum, Bath

Visitors to the beautiful city of Bath this Christmas are being treated to the site of one of Bruce Munro’s most magical illuminated sculptures.


Munro’s ‘Field of Light’ is now installed in the garden of the Holburne Museum in the garden at back of the new glass and ceramic extension, and will remain in place until January 8th 2012.  Best seen in the dark, it will be switched on at 4pm and remain lit until 7pm daily. The sculpture first came to public attention when a scaled-down version was exhibited at the V&A in 2004 and it went on to have huge success at Long Knoll Field and at the Eden Project in Cornwall in 2008/9.


“I’m really delighted to be working with the Holburne Museum” says Munro “The director Alexander Sturgis and his team have injected so much energy into the place, and are making this beautiful little museum into a genuinely world-class and exciting destination.”


Munro was inspired to make this piece during a trip through the Australian red desert with his fiancé (now his wife) 18 years ago. Driving along the Stewart Highway he would stop at night at roadside campsites, which are often in stark contrast to the barren desert that surrounds them: sprinkler-fed oases of green, each one displaying a larger than life sculpture of surreal design and proportions- perhaps a giant banana, pineapple or Merino sheep.


Munro was transfixed by the way the red desert was barren until it rained and then, as if from nowhere, dormant seeds would burst into bloom. He made a series of sketches in the notebook carried in his pocket since his student days, and the idea refused to dislodge from his mind.


Field of Light, like a giant surreal camp-side banana, is an alien installation in the midst of nature. And like dry desert seeds lying in wait for the rain, the sculpture’s fibre optic stems lie dormant until darkness falls, and then under a blazing blanket of stars they flower with gentle rhythms of light.  ‘Field of Light’ is about the desert as much as the roadside campsites- and like much of Munro’s work is characterised by an almost mystical passion for nature teamed with a robust sense of humour.


First opened in 1893, the Holburne has a permanent collection including Renaissance bronzes, silver and ceramics as well as superb paintings by Gainsborough, Stubbs, Turner and Zoffany. After three years of renovations, it reopened in May this year to record numbers of visitors, who came to admire the critically acclaimed new extension, and stunning new displays. It is currently showing the exhibition Gainsborough’s Landscapes: Themes and Variations and new landscape photographs by Mark Edwards.


Alexander Sturgis, the Holburne’s Director, “The park in which the Museum sits was famous for its illuminations in the eighteenth century so we are delighted to be able to surround our new building with Bruce Munro’s Field of Light. It works beautifully on our site and really lifts the spirits at the darkest time of the year.”


Over the years, the design format and technology of Field of Light have evolved and it has been shown in many places. It is made of acrylic stems, through which fibre optic cables run, each topped by a frosted acrylic ball. Each cluster of stems is illuminated by an external projector on a colour wheel and the stems themselves hold no electric power at all. At the Holburne, there are 5220 stems of light. To maximise reflections in Eric Parry’s glass extension, Munro has placed narrow sets of extra stems indoors, topped with clear spheres and fixed in small plinths.


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