14 April 2012
INTERVIEW: CHRIS BRACEY, NEON ARTIST
London-based neon artist Chris Bracey has worked with neon lighting for almost 40 years. During which time, he has given most of London’s Soho a brightly lit face lift and worked on major Hollywood blockbusters like Eyes Wide Shut, Batman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A new exhibition of his work; ‘Stages of Love’ is set to open at Guy Hepner’s LA and Miami galleries on the 3rd May 2012. PINCH caught up with him to find out where in the world inspires him and how he got into the art of neon.
Q. CHRIS, WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO WORK WITH NEON LIGHTS AND INSTALLATIONS?
A. My Dad used to work with neon lighting – he used to do fairground signs and circus signs. I started out my career in Soho as a graphic designer and got a bit disillusioned with it all so started learning the ropes with my Dad. I saw the signs in Soho in the 70s and they were all so tacky or really boring and I just decided I wanted to show them how creative they could be with the lighting. So I approached the club owner of the ‘Pink Pussy Cat Club’ to make him a sign and after that, I ended up changing many of the club signs in Soho throughout the 70s and 80s.
Q. YOU’VE MADE ICONIC PIECES FOR VOGUE, MCQUEEN, JOHNNY DEPP AND TIM BURTON – WHICH IS YOUR FAVOUITE PIECE AND WHY?
A. I’ve made a lot of signs for movies; the first Batman with Jack Nicholson was one of my favourites – a hotel sign in turquoise coloured neon. My other favourite was working on Eyes Wide Shut with Stanley Kubrick who is a legend. I made a jazz club sign which is in the film. Other than that, my favourite signs are the ones Dad made that I have kept hold of.
Q. IS THERE AN ERA THAT HAS PARTICULARLY INSPIRED YOUR WORK, AND WHY?
A. I find 1920s art deco very inspiring as well as old 50s Hollywood movies. Neon was originally invented for old cinemas and theatres which I love to visit.
Q. YOUR WORK EVOKES OLD FAIRGROUND RIDES AND SEASIDE RETRO-CHIC, WHERE IN THE WORLD HAS INSPIRED YOU MOST?
I would have to say Las Vegas of course. There’s a sign called the Pink Flamingo there which is my favourite and an incredible bit of light work. But Hollywood has been very influential for me, especially old Hollywood movies. I’m very visual and pictures or music inspire me a lot, I might hear some interesting lyrics and decide there and then to make a sign. Going to the circus or funfair as a child, the neon signs captured my imagination. There was this amazing magical feeling when it all goes dark and that’s something I still love today.
Chris Bracey’s work is on display at Guy Hepner’s LA and Miami galleries on the 3rd May 2012.
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