Tropical Light is a unique collection of eight illuminated sculptures by internationally renowned artist Bruce Munro, and marks his largest city-wide exhibition in Australia.
Commissioned by the Northern Territory Government, Munro based the concepts of these works on his personal history of visiting Darwin, allowing locals and visitors to discover a blend of Darwin experiences, nature and history in each one.
Gathering of the Clans
Gathering of the Clans, 2014
When Munro was a young man living in Australia in the early 1990s, he would be woken early by a cacophony of bird calls, especially the raucous cry of the sulphur crested cockatoo. He also began experimenting with a fluorescent acrylic material that glows under ultraviolet light, which he had discovered early in his career in Sydney.
Years later, recalling that period of his life for installation, Munro imagined all the species of cockatoos coming together for a chinwag. He then devised bespoke, colour-coded clothes pegs to capture the essence of these exotic birds perched on the iconic Hills Hoist clothesline. Birds are clannish and cheeky, and the sculpture is meant to be slightly irreverent; a bit like the Aussie spirit.
Pukul Lima (Temperate Clock), 2019
While in Darwin, Munro researched the Raintree, which is called Pukul Lima in Malay. This translates to the five o’clock tree because of the unusual quirk of folding its leaves at dusk or when it rains. Using this tree and two other concepts, Munro created a sculptural abstraction of a chilled out timepiece in the city.
The hours of the clock are represented by 12 ceramic pots inspired by the North American Indians of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Each of the pots holds a blue light inside, idealised by Munro as a cold version of a coal fire. He uses this ‘cooling’ effect to create a space for people to gather round at a more temperate part of the day.
Telegraph Rose, 2019
With its 700 vertically orientated fishing rods, laid out in the form of the Sturt Desert Rose, the Northern Territory’s floral emblem since 1961, this sculpture is quintessentially Darwin as it pays homage to the locals’ love of fishing. This is a world premiere for Telegraph Rose which also includes Munro’s artistic interest in Morse code, used in many previous works.
While in Darwin, Munro discovered that the first international Morse code message was sent by telegraph, just below the lawns of Parliament House. The following message is included in the audio element: “We have this day, within two years, completed a line of communication two thousand miles long through the very centre of Australia, until a few years ago a terra incognita believed to be a desert.”
Green Flash, 2017
This sculpture is named after an optical phenomena that sometimes occurs right after sunset or before sunrise, for only a second or two. The green flash, which happens when the atmosphere causes the sunlight to separate into different colours, is one of those wonders which captured Munro’s imagination as a child.
While living in Australia during his 20s, Munro spent many sunsets and the occasional sunrise trying to capture the elusive green flash on camera. He thought it would be fun to try and bring that memory back into his artwork. At dawn and dusk, illuminated bottles slowly morph through an array of colours of a rising and setting sun, momentarily flashing hues of green.
Time and Again
Time and Again, 2019
The opportunity to return to Australia, the country that had been so formative to Munro inspired many new thoughts about time and its progression. In 2016 he was taken by a ranger to the Indigenous area close to where he had viewed Uluru some 25 years previously, and was intrigued how Indigenous Australians have a different sense of time.
With this artwork, 37 stainless steel lily pads form a convex dome with each lily incised with a design to represent past, present and future. For Munro, art is a lot about trying to capture an emotion, a memory of place or a sense of time. This artwork takes the form of a mythical time piece, replacing western ideas of time with the concept of one eternal “timeless moment”.
Sun Lily, 2019
A world first, this sculpture was created uniquely for Darwin. At the heart of Sun Lily is a local flower called Spider Lily which Munro came across while visiting the city. Their strappy leaves, which arc out from a central piece, are an Australian-inspired iteration of one of Munro’s other installations, Fireflies.
With the Spider Lily and whimsical Fireflies in mind, Munro arranged hundreds of sprigs, comprised of points of light, to form the shape of a new, hybrid flower coming into bloom as it soaks up the tropical sun. A fitting tribute to a beautiful Australian flower.
Light Shower, 2019
When it rains in Darwin, it certainly isn’t light. Rain comes down in bucket-loads and the sound can be deafening. This artwork, which has 3,000 paradoxical “raindrops of light” suspended under canopies, is a sculptural celebration of rain during the Tropical Summer.
By day, the artwork catches glimpses of sunshine to shed prismatic flecks of light on to the pathway. By night, it not only morphs into a shower of light, but when the clouds roll in and it’s pouring with rain outside people will find themselves walking under a canopy of light. The viewer is in a tropical shower while keeping dry under a light shower; a kind of physical, magical realism.
When Munro was 21-years-old he read a book called Gifts of Unknown Things by a radical thinker called Lyall Watson. In this book, the author describes a young girl, Tia, who possesses the gift of seeing sounds in colour. Her gift of synaesthesia inspired Munro to create a colourful, watery musical maze of towers as a tribute to the author.
For Darwin, Munro wanted each of the 30 towers in this iteration to stand like large sentinels overlooking the sea and the city. Each of the towers is made of stacked, recyclable water bottles, illuminated by optic fibres which glow and change in colour to celebrate all that makes the city so unique.