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After learning of the passing of iconic neon artist, Chris Bracey, to cancer last Saturday, we thought that it would be a nice gesture to pay tribute to his influential and contemporary artwork that pushed the boundaries of modern neon signage.
Known as “the master of glow” or “Neon Man”, the British artist and designer was the founder of God’s Own Junkyard in London and housed one of the largest collections of bespoke neon signs and sculpture outside the US. Bracey’s 40-year career enabled him to redevelop the purposes of neon signs and revolutionise the neon industry with the combination of modernised concepts.
Some of his most notable commissions include a £100,000 hot pink artwork of Kate Moss’ name; an “All You Can Eat” Vegas Supernova sign for Selfridges made with David LaChappelle; and a giant neon “Aladdin Sane” lightning bolt for the 2013 V&A Bowie exhibition, amongst a number of neon signs that have been used for film props.
“Neon has a soul, it lives at night creating poetry with light, promising love in Soho or hot bagels all night.”– Chris Bracey
Bracey’s introduction to working with glass tubes and gases came from an early age, which saw him join the family neon business, Electro Signs, after studying at art college and following a brief stint at a Soho graphics agency. Landlord Paul Raymond soon became his first customer by commissioning a “Girls, Girls, Girls” neon sign for Raymond Revuebar in Soho, a self-proclaimed “World Centre of Erotic Entertainment”.
This neon sign captured the attention of many and subsequently set the tone for a wealth of other commissions that defined the salacity of Soho’s sex scene in the 1970s.
“I did 99 percent of every sex establishment in Soho for 20 years… For me, it was an artistic endeavour.”– Chris Bracey
After gaining much recognition for transforming Soho into a picturesque electric wonderland, this fame led to a long list of opportunities to move away from creating neon signs for the sleazy underbelly of Soho. However, his first commission since moving away from sex was for a neon sign to feature in the film Mona Lisa (1986), which was in fact set in Soho, after the director saw him putting up a sex shop sign.
This exposure of his eye-catching artwork led on to many more commissions for films including pieces for Batman; Blade Runner; Byzantium; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Casino Royale; The Dark Knight; and Eyes Wide Shut, which was all featured alongside some of Hollywood’s most famous movie stars.
The inspiration behind his artwork stemmed from his attendance to a Bruce Nauman exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1997, where he realised the artistic possibilities of working with neon tubing. The success that Bracey enjoyed helped to define a unique style that has become synonymous with a host of celebrities looking to see their name in lights, establishing himself as one of the most creative and influential neon sign makers of recent times.
Since the inception of God’s Own Junkyard, his studio/warehouse, Bracey became almost a figurehead of commercial neon signs and was one of the UK’s most renowned neon sign makers through his classically distinctive style. Furthermore, the high-profile list of clientele and commissions that he has accrued over his career serves as a testament to his creativity, passion and dedication to the industry.
By collecting a host of different vintage signs, Bracey’s fervent desire to rework these exhausted pieces and create something fresh, yet aesthetically-beautiful, has always been executed with supreme perfection.
Here at Neon Creations, we were shocked and extremely saddened to learn of this news as the loss of such an iconic person is an absolute tragedy, but we’re certain that his legend and reputation will live on for some time to come. Chris Bracey has always been a consistent fixture in the neon industry and has influenced a generation of neon creators including our very own, Tony, where he had this to say:
“We have waited a few days to try and gather some thoughts on this, and wanted to pay tribute to Chris and his work. We are often asked to recreate his pieces (which we never do), which shows in itself what a respected/influential artist he is in the neon art world.
“The influence of his work can also be seen in the work of other neon artists, which is again a huge testament to his creativity.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and we hope to see the continuation of Chris’ work through his sons.
Long Live Neon.”– Tony Spink