Chris Bracey – Gods Own Junkyard

Chris Bracey’s passing in the late part of 2014 saw the loss of an unsung hero of London. He sadly lost his battle with prostate cancer at the age of 59. He was an artist and designer who owned and created one of the largest collections of neon signs and sculpture. Starting out in graphic design, he later joined his father Dick in the neon business.

The 1980’s saw the glamorous rise of the sex industry in the West End of London and with it came a very bright designer. Chris Bracey ceased an opportunity and latched onto the need for advertising there. His skills in lighting design rapidly developed along side the boom of the sex industry. He was a sought after individual, with his artist work on show in nearly all of the sex establishments in the Soho area for two decades.

His work wasn’t just famous in the underworld of Soho, he was also commissioned numerous times to work in film, retail and fashion. Creating signs for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Bladerunner and Batman films as well as creating catwalk and in store displays for some of the UK’s biggest brands and stores. The majority of his work was stored in ‘Gods Own Junk Yard’ in Walthamstow in the north east of London.

After his passing, an exhibition of work from his 40-year career was put on in the part of London he was made famous. A group of us went down to talk a look. It wasn’t until we arrived at the ‘Lights of Soho’ in Brewer Street, that you could really appreciate the artistic craft involved in his career. The exhibition space was full of some of his most famous pieces, large or small, static or animated. It fascinating to see how he conveyed a message through light, using just key words in appropriate colours to sell a product.

Accompanying this blog post is a video Rosie and I put together, that captures the energy and spirit of his career. Documenting a variety of pieces we saw at the exhibition.


Philip Hawkins Designer

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He’s like Marmite…

I know we are given completely free rein in choosing what we would like to write about on here (minus expletives or obscenities) so it may seem a little sad that I am going to share a pharmaceutical-related post, but I think that there is much more behind the scenes of this particular article. Last weekend I sacrificed my much-anticipated Saturday morning lie in to go and visit the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Paul Stopler gallery. Art teamed with science is pretty much my idea of heaven, especially when it displays such an analytical platform – there’s always Sunday.

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SCHIZOPHRENOGENESIS – yes I also wondered how Hirst managed to piece this term together, the melody of the syllables suddenly resonates a pleasant edge. After wandering around the life-size articles for the first 10 minutes I took it upon myself to ask an exhibitionist what they understood by that name in lights – it took a lot as it was a fairly small room with a deafening silence. So apparently Hirst wanted to try to portray the birth of schizophrenia through the way in which the pharmaceutical giants dress up their products. He feels as though it’s a two-way street in the development of such a disorder, and the prescription of medication – sort of a ‘chicken or egg’ dilemma.

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(Damien & Genesis’ Phil look separated at birth)

And as an unsuspecting member of the public it is easy to be drawn in by the pretty, clean and striking models that are laid out on such a stark white background. But what is missing is the dark side of which ironically Damien is notorious for, which is why I find this particular piece so tantalising. It’s not about the first impression, Hirst entices you into becoming infatuated by the portraits, the neon title and the pastel toy-like models, but what is really significant is the sobering reflection.

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The pharmaceutical aspect of this exhibition is actually – excuse the cliché – the tip of the iceberg. Hirst even took it upon himself to plaster his own brand over the back of a pill packet to almost make a mockery of the giants of the industry, to fool you to believe that anyone could personalise and materialise their very own fairytale cure.

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I’m sure many are aware of the imprisoning nature of Schizophrenia however little is known about the effects that it induces upon sufferers and their loved ones. They too strive to create a façade, to disguise the differing personalities and states of mind. Governed by the diagnosis from a trusted professional and ultimately held hostage by the tiny capsules that greet them each day. In a way it is a pretty pill, a beaming beacon of hope that helps guide an individual towards a lifestyle that is worthy of a show – but the show must go on and in this case spiral into a vicious circle. As an audience you are confronted by stacks of medication piled on top of one another, possibly signifying the competitive nature of the industry; which I interpret as a reflection of the competing thoughts that a sufferer has to strive to referee.

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Looking at the containers, the bottles and this syringe – they are all empty, why? It leaves you with such a hollow feeling, this outer shell portrays such a promise from a first glance, but the reality is lacking true substance. Interestingly I managed to discover that Hirst had toyed with the idea of including a completely transparent see-through pill model to bring the placebo to life, but I think the fact that he decided against this emphasises the very purpose. The placebo effect in this case is the one the audience feels viewing his spectacle.

Anyway, I could type on for pages analysing his every intension but I will leave you to take away what you will. From my perspective Hirst can do no wrong (mild bias) and work of this nature can only create a global platform for the education and positive press of a disorder like schizophrenia. If you do get the chance to visit, this free exhibition is on until the 15th November (Tuesday–Saturday). Unless you want to purchase a little memento, in which case all the best with selling your car.

Thanks for reading :-)

Abbie Warner – Junior Account Executive

A Purrrfect Exhibition

learn-to-speak-cat

Thanks to everyone at PLBR for exhibiting some of my prints and originals in their Kensington offices. if you work anywhere else in Kensington Village, swing by and take a gander. Ask nicely if you can pop in as opposed to staring through the window though. This has the unfortunate effect of making the staff feel like they are residents of a zoo. That’s doubly so if you wave bananas and scratch your armpits. So cut that out… we know who you are.

Anyway, things have changed a bit since I was regularly freelancing there and working on briefs to promote eye drops, cancer drugs and the plight of the homeless. Back then I learned an awful lot about medicine and other advances in science, all of which I’ve now completely forgotten!

I’m now doing a daily ‘Learn to Speak Cat’ cartoon for the Metro newspaper and ‘Learn to Speak Dog’ for the online edition of Cosmopolitan magazine, as well as various other bits and bobs.

learn-to-speak-cat_exhibition

Do check out a couple of books I have in the shops or online, Learn to Speak Cat & Bad Dog, No Biscuit

They make ideal Christmas presents, although they are possibly not suitable for very young children or elderly people with a bad disposition. Or people who don’t like cats and dogs. Or indeed, people who don’t like cartoons about cats and dogs. Actually, I should probably stop giving you reasons not to buy these. It just demonstrates how rusty my advertising skills are.

Anthony Smith