A visit to neon light artist Chris Bracey’s magical studio – aka God’s Own Junkyard – in east London (first picture) is an experience that won’t easily be forgotten. Clients, drawn to the brightly illuminated themes prevalent in his work – sex, fun and rock’n’roll – are confronted by an array of Soho sex-shop slogans, kitsch Hollywood signs and cool Britannia ephemera. Here is the perfect place to seek inspiration and begin a custom design – and Bracey loves to work with a client to conceive new concepts. After initial sketches and samples are made, maquettes are produced and the finished piece typically delivered in a month.
Popular with designers and fashion houses, including Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Chloé, his private commissions have also been used for film projects – Casino Royale and The Dark Knight are just two. Bracey’s bespoke, one-off installations incorporate everything from “colours of the fairground and exotic typography” to more muted hues and retro messaging. And nothing is wasted in his world, as he deftly resurrects and re-imagines old neons for those who favour quirky, vibrant, vintage art.
For his newer pieces, Bracey uses Venetian glass sourced from a factory in Murano celebrated for having “the best colours”, including a rich ruby infused with 24ct gold and a bright canary yellow. He then sets about melting and moulding the glass tubes that are later filled with neon, argon, xenon, helium and krypton. “When powered with electricity, they become an almost spiritual, living being,” he says. Past works have ranged from an exuberant God Save the Queen (second picture, £30,000) wall-mounted sign, to a smaller, more subdued sculpture featuring a typographical seven deadly sin (third and fourth pictures, £10,000-£12,000).
This month, his Circus of Soho pop-up shop opens on Beak Street (from November 20 to January 15), where a selection of illuminated artworks will go on display. “Neon has a soul – it lives at night, creating poetry with light,” he says, whether it “promises love in Soho or hot bagels”. His work, in short, is always brilliant.