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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About the ‘New Guy’

Well I have been asked to write a PLBR blog, which I graciously accepted without knowing what I wanted to talk about. So I hope the following ramblings and incoherent thoughts suffice.

As the ‘new guy’ I am often asked about what I did before winning the creative role from The Lab. So I suppose this blog post will not be dissimilar from a bio piece, but I will try to include some advice or talk about something of actual value along the way. Try not to get bored.

I suppose for want of a better word; I am an artist and always have been. From moulding foul smelling Play Doh into sculptures, to having more child-friendly anti-toxic paint over myself than the paper – I was always told I would make a great artist. I wanted to be one. Not the society hating, pretentious, rude and hard to work with ‘tormented genius’ role that looks down on other people (which seems to be the norm these days). Rather the kind that likes to create for beauty’s sake.

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So with that in mind, I did a year towards a degree in Law. And even though I found criminal law to be interesting, I knew it wasn’t enough to hold my attention for the rest of my life, so I applied for art courses whilst working in a bank. Not in a branch, but in a ‘magic building’ where the real work happened. It was pretty dull. I eventually started my degree in Fine Art and it was 3 of the best years of my life. I drew, painted, sculpted and slept a lot. I had a particular affinity with lens work and branched off in the latter half of my second year to specialise in film and photography. My first film was awful. It’s 3 minutes long, involving me sharing a banana with myself. Black and white silent film where I stole some music from a Charlie Chaplin film and slowed it down to around 80%. Poorly edited…It went on to be showcased at the Whitstable film festival. A lot of people shook my hand saying how much they liked it. Damn.

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I also love photography. Some of the shots I achieved with a really bad camera (included) I think are a testament to how I compose a shot. I’m really happy with them so I hope you think they are cool. I am now saving up for a 5d or a c300 or something similar.

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I have written a lot of screenplays, a few of which I was told to pursue by one of my lecturers – a film-maker who has had commissions with Film 4. So that’s a thing. Maybe if I plan it out well enough I can get a few short films done before I’m thirty. One of them I did in my final year at university. I was the producer, budget handler, head of casting, location scout, set designer, camera operator, director, runner, gaffer, cinematographer, editor, colour grader and I set up the screen for the ‘I AM art exhibition’ it was shown for. I will get funding and a crew next time. It was selected for a 6 week screening at the Turner Contemporary Gallery. An honour. I am not posting a link to the video as I don’t like it any more – sorry!

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I suppose I had better talk about something of value. A cutesy go-away-and-think-about-this type deal. Hopefully some of you are still reading, I know this is long. I wouldn’t read it. Anyway, I’ll call it ‘inspiration’. Here goes.

Aesthetic is important and wondrous. Not a day goes by where I don’t look up at the stars and get lost in the vastness (oh look he is a pretentious arsehole). I have seen Hubble space images projected at an IMAX, as well as footage of them installing the Hubble – all narrated by Tom Cruise. I highly recommend it. That’s what inspires me. Knowing how finite and insignificant we are against the vastness of what we don’t know. Seeing exploded stars in 12K resolution – dead, like they had stuck a pistol in their sun spot, with colourful matter like star brains that are smeared across the space wall – is awe inspiring. If I ever figure out how to transform that beauty outside of space photography and into a gallery I’d be a millionaire. It’s taken a horrible bad poetic turn, but I include a picture of a poetry ‘thing’ I won in school. See it? Great young minds. See, right there, credentials. I was a cocky kid in school, but least I had evidence to back it up. These are the ramblings I told you about at the beginning, remember?

If I had anything to say of worth, it’s to find your muse. Find something or someone that inspires you, and hold on to it. Look at it every day, even if it’s as stupid as looking up at the stars every night. Go and hold your head up high – walk out the door every morning knowing you’re going to kick arse that day. That’s what inspiration does; it’s the little spark that starts it all. Go get ’em you brilliant bastard, I believe in you.

Jonathan Webb – The New Guy.