The London gallery shining a light on neon art

By Patrick Johnston| LONDON

On the flick of a flurry of switches, a studio on a gray industrial estate in East London lights up to reveal hundreds of bright neon artworks.

Owned by 43-year-old artist Marcus Bracey, the gallery in Walthamstow, called ‘God’s Own Junkyard’, houses the collection of four generations of his family who have made, bought and displayed neon works.

The pieces are accompanied by kitsch memorabilia that Bracey has collected from film sets and car boot sales across Britain, leaving just enough room for a narrow winding aisle for visitors to navigate their way through the gallery.

“This is my neon emporium, my museum of light, my Aladdin’s cave,” Bracey told Reuters from the center of the high-ceilinged studio which runs up an electricity bill of over 700 pounds ($900) a week.

Some of Bracey’s works have appeared in films, including “Mission Impossible” and “Eyes Wide Shut”, or decorated department stores, namely London’s Selfridges, while others have been bought by celebrities such as Kate Moss.

Bracey recently sold a large God Save the Queen neon sign in front of a heart-shaped British, Union Jack, flag for 58,000 pounds ($74,700) at auction to a buyer in Dubai.

A replica is on display at God’s Own Junkyard, which Bracey opened with his father Chris in 2008 after running out of space at home to store the family’s work.

The earliest pieces in the showroom, often used for film shoots, date back to the 1950s, when Marcus’s grandfather left his job as a miner in Wales to join a lighting company and eventually make signs for carnivals across Britain.

“He left the dark and came into the light,” Bracey said.

Numerous sex shop signs can also be found, pieces made in the 1980s by Marcus’s father Chris who flooded London’s seedy Soho sex shops with a swath of fluorescent neon signs in a bid to turn the area into a replica of Las Vegas.

Bracey’s new works, which take around six weeks to make with neon moulded over 800 degree burners, now sit alongside those of his 17-year-old daughter Amber, a graffiti artist and next in line to take over the family business.

Bracey, however, isn’t ready to step away from his neon wonderland just yet.

“The buzz, the feel, the happiness. To turn it on and see what it looks like,” he said of the excitement he gets every time he flicks on those switches.

($1 = 0.7761 pounds)

(Editing by Susan Fenton)

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