Chris Bracey: The Circus of Soho and the Neon King
by Chronograph Post
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.
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.