The Chronograph Post

The Culture side of life

Month: January, 2013

A Child’s History Lesson

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Anyone interested in the history of the Publishing industry or illustration should track down some old comics. I am not a comic aficionado by nature, however these old 1950’s Eagle comics have truly fascinated me; the paper and print has a quality quite unlike anything that you see on the shelves today, in your hand it has the feel of a battered Private Eye (albeit age most likely has a hand in this) but with the print quality of a photographic tome. The ink is embedded so thickly in the paper you can practically feel the zinc rubbing off in your hands and considering the relatively crude printing techniques, the graphics are razor sharp.

However, what is undoubtedly most fascinating about these comics is the insight they provide into 1950s social perspective and understanding. Art is the voice of expression and these comics reveal the reaction of a population, in a decade dominated by the Cold War, Communist Soviets and the international Space Race.

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These ‘Dan Dare’ comics present to modern audiences, what was can only be described as the raging hysteria that surrounded that first intrepid journey into space. Set in the future (the 1990s…) Dare and his band of followers routinely prevent the world from imploding into chaos and  tyranny, wrenching it from the evil clutches of the treacherous Mekon (a bulbous headed alien who routinely threatens the existence of earth.) However, despite this ‘modern’ content, the whole set up reeks with the identity of the 1950s – there may as well be a floating caption above all Dan Dare villains’ disclaiming their Russian Nationality. Some could argue (i’m not choosing to) that these comics intone ‘propaganda lite’ messages, heralding national allegiance and patriotism in the face of the Cold War and Communism…  I personally think its merely the time-honoured tradition of writing about what you know and using topical interest as ready made content.

Regardless, whether embedded with political intent or not (obviously not)  these comics provide a great insight into the general emotional state of 1950s Britain, whilst simultaneously chronicling the history of our publishing industry.

All hail the once supposed humble comic.

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Chris Bracey: The Circus of Soho and the Neon King

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If you fancy taking a trip into the hallucinogenic inducing world of bright lights and heavy techno music, then a brief dalliance in Chris Bracey’s Soho shop installation God’s Junk Yard: The Circus of Soho installation is all you need to propel you into this deliciously seedy underworld.

Bracey’s history as an artist is well combed over territory: he famously overhauled the image of the 70s red light district – producing the majority of the signage and imagery, leaving a slew of copy cats in his wake. His neon ‘lineage’ stems from his involvement and eventual takeover of his father’s family business, which to this day is still based in the innocuous Walthamstow. Originally the company produced purely functional neon pieces, before the young Bracey, stifled by his work in a Soho based graphic design studio, commandeered his father’s production process and brought it with a crash into the promiscuous 70s and later, the art world. Fast forward to the 21st Century and a string of reputed personal clients including (but not limited to) Kate Moss and Johnny Depp, and a torrent of commissions for the film and fashion elite under his belt (Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood are merely a few names to have sanctioned Bracey’s artistic renderings for commercial projects) Bracey has most definitely come out of sex shops and graduated to the catwalks, homes and movie sets of Rock and Roll’s elite.

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What’s interesting is that even after his meteoric success and vast public recognition, Bracey has chosen to present his pieces in a style that does as much to emulate its origins as possible; for a collection which could easily command a trendy gallery, but moreover a hefty fee, it feels very poignant to see Bracey return to show his collection down the road from the area in Soho from whence he first made his name.

Speaking with the curator of Bracey’s Soho shop/space/junkyard, the anecdote that thrilled me most was that in his spare time, Bracey is a potter. Yes a simple potter with clay and a wheel, not a blowtorch wielding cyanide guzzling magician. When you look back again through these images of Bracey’s sexually explosive and eye blinding work, it’s enjoyable to imagine this same man -who single handedly conquered London’s underworld and Kate Moss’ living room- incongruously crafting a teapot back in his walthamstow studios. However once you separate those two images, this installation provides a wonderful catalogue of Bracey’s best public work, as well as a time warp back to the seediest of 70s Soho club. For this alone, Bracey’s pop up gallery is an absolute must visit, if only to say that you once visited /paid homage to the birthplace of the infamous “girls, girls, girls” slogan.

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