INTERVIEW: ROSIE STEER
Chris Bracey has been making neon art for over three decades, creating artworks for the fashion and film industries. He talks about his work as he headlines at Daniel Poole’s pop-up store, God’s Own Junkyard…
I’ve been making neon art and sculpture for 38 years. I probably have the largest collection in Europe, or possibly anywhere outside America. God’s Own Junkyard features work from my archive as well as new and re-worked pieces. It seems a shame to throw material away once it’s been used, so I reuse salvaged and discarded objects, reworking them for a new age. My fascination with old signs and lights began early; I was intrigued by the joy evoked by neon fairground art and signs. Lots of my work involves flashing bulbs, but it really took off when I transformed Soho in the late ‘70s with outrageous neons and blinking fairground lights.
When I was working on signage for the now defunct Pink Pussy Cat striptease club, the art director of Mona Lisa approached me – that became my first film commission. After that, I was commissioned by Tim Burton and worked on many films for him. Cinema is a really close-knit community. I had always wanted to meet Stanley Kubrick and was lucky to work with him. He worked a lot at night; I think nearly everything I did with Kubrick was done at night. One of the most iconic neon signs I made for cinema was probably the neon St Mark’s Hotel sign in Interview With a Vampire. People don’t consider the time and effort that’s gone into making it, but a neon sign has a soul of its own – a light’s unique craftsmanship can never be replicated.
The controversial ‘Vegas Supernova’ display I created for Selfridges with David LaChapelle marked a move into the fashion world. I’ve created unique lighting and in-store displays as well as items for the catwalks of Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Mulberry, Burberry and Agent Provocateur. It’s a really graphic, unique art form, turning these retail outlets into something completely different – turning them into a dream.
I find the creative process of producing my art takes quite a long time. Sometimes I wake from a dream in the middle of the night and sketch out an idea. I’m fascinated by advertising, especially the commercialism of religion – it’s a funny thing that you can subvert, which inspired my work ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’. I’m constantly looking for new inspiration, but a lot of it comes from within and from neon signs themselves – they’re like free spirits.
Daniel Poole presents God’s Own Junkyard featuring the work of Chris Bracey alongside contemporary pieces by Rory Dobner and Jack Allen and others at The Old Hardware Store, 156 Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, NW1 8XN until 12 January 2012; godsownjunkyard.co.uk