Chris Bracey, Neon Installation Artist – I’VE LOOKED UP TO HEAVEN AND BEEN DOWN TO HELL
Bright ideas come with light…and Chris Bracey plays with neons like nobody else ! Over the years he has acquired the ‘title’ of the ‘Neon Man’ with his iconic creative artpieces. Often commissioned for his creations by high-profile clients such as David La Chapelle, Stella McCartney, Martin Creed and Vivienne Westwood, Chris Bracey has also provided dramatic installations for major movies such as Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or the Batman films.
His vision for color is quite uncanny and shaping engaging compositions is quite unique and engaging with a twist for delight.
We caught up with Mr Bracey along with his exhibition ‘ I’VE LOOKED UP TO HEAVEN AND BEEN DOWN TO HELL’ at the Scream gallery in London lasting until the 1st of June 2013, to discover the secrets hidden behind his work of lights and his self-produced neons, referencing popular culture. Chris Bracey’ s inspiration is various and eclectic; it touches the universe of films, tattoos ((“Love & Hate”, Las Vegas and the streets of Soho )… and music: the piece “Shine A Light in the Darkness of Your Soul” was written by Martin Gore from Depeche Mode and “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” is from a song by The Smiths.
The artist digged through vintage signs which he updated and re-worked keeping the essence of the past breathing within these signs. Glamour and nostalgia.
Turn off the light and let the magic neons whisper dreams into your eyes:
“I’ve been making neon for 40 years and i’ve studied neon from all over the world, LA London, Vegas, Tokyo. Neon is in my blood, it is my life force. I live and breath neon.” Chris Bracey
CM: Tell us briefly who you are and what you do.
I am Chris Bracey the neon artist; I make light art from old signs and new ideas, I am like Frankenstein creating life in neon glass.
CM: How did you become a professional artist? (What was the journey from finishing school to being here today?)
I was gifted in art from very young, I worked as a graphic artist then learned how to make neon from my father. Eventually I made it as an artist.
CM: You’re affectionately known as the neon light guru – tell us more about your attraction to neon light?
I’ve been making neon for 40 years and i’ve studied neon from all over the world, LA London, Vegas, Tokyo. Neon is in my blood, it is my life force. I live and breath neon.
CM: What inspires your neon lights (either new or recycled)?
I have 100s of old vintage signs which I like to regenerate into new works but I also have lots of ideas for unique works too.
CM: How do you know when you’re onto something good re a project?
When i get excited, when the hair goes up on the back of my neck i know i’m onto something big then i work and work.
CM: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Working with David La Chapelle on Vegas Super Nova at Selfridges in 2005 and having my first UK solo exhibition at Scream.
CM: You did some work for the legendary director Stanley Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut – can you tell us how that came about?
My friend Les Tomkins the movie designer was on that movie. He called me into meet Stanley we immediately struck up a friendship and Stanley trusted me.
CM: What other films have you been involved with?
Superman, 4 x Batman movies, Mona Lisa’s scandal, Sid & Nancy by Zantium, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Captain America, Fast & Furious 6.
CM: What are some of the challenges you face as an artist – both personally and professionally?
Personally and professionally I don’t have enough hours in a day. It’s been 5 years since I had a holiday, it’s hard to succeed to get to the top and be a good husband.
CM: Which other artists do you admire right now?
CM: When you’ve finished a project, are you ever truly satisfied? What make a work successful to you?
I always feel there’s more to do and feel something is missing. If I love the piece so much i don’t want to let anyone have them I know it’s finished.
CM: What advice would give to younger or new artists starting out?
You have to network in every direction, try everything to learn and meet and work with the best if your truly a genious you’ll make it.
CM: What inspires you about living and working in London?
London is and always will be the greatest inspiration to me, it gives me everything, love, hate, hell and heaven.
CM: How did your studio – Gods Own Junkyard – come about? Did you find it or did it find you?
Gods Own Junkyard is a 40 year love affair with neon. It’s like a living thing – it’s like you go inside my head!
CM: Do you ever suffer creative blocks? If so how do you handle them?
When I’m down I go down to the River Thames and listen to Waterloo Sunset and London Calling, get drunk with my sexy wife Linda who I have been married to for 40 years and make love in the rain. Always works.
CM: What would a dream creative collaboration in film be for you?
To work with Ridley Scott on a prequel or sequel to Blade Runner, that would be the greatest job in the world.
CM: 5 favorite music tracks that inspire you and help you work?
Blade Runner, Je t’ aime, Serge Gainsbourg, Sympathy For the Devil, Football, The Bermondsey Joy Rider
CM: If you had to live another life entirely, what would you be doing – and why?
I’d be Karl Largerfeld at Chanel designing beautiful clothes, I always wanted to be a fashion designer. It’s an art form.
Photography copyright: Chris Bracey, Scream Gallery