Gallery: Expert in ‘dark art of liquid fire’ resurrects Thorpeness landmark in art
An expert in the “dark art of liquid fire” has salvaged timber from a historic landmark on the Suffolk coast to create neon signs for the rich and famous.
Chris Bracey’s iconic art, incorporating woodwork rescued during the conversion of Ogilvie Hall in Thorpeness, can be found in the homes of film stars, musicians and celebrity chefs across the globe.
The hall’s antique floorboards, upon which the renowned composer Benjamin Britten once rehearsed, were discovered in a skip by Mr Bracey during one of his regular visits to the coastal village.
Determined not to see the relics go to waste, he hauled the timber home and involved it in his designs, many of which have since sold for thousands of pounds to famous clients including Victoria Beckham, Jude Law and Jamie Oliver.
“It’s quite remarkable really,” he said
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The flooring was also used to make a neon star for the television show Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas. Presenter Kirstie Allsop described the work as “a triumph” and praised its beauty.
Mr Bracey’s other work has featured in blockbuster movies such as The Dark Knight Rises, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and World War Z.
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The 59-year-old artist says he has had “a love affair with neon” ever since his father, a former miner, began making signs in the 50s.
“I love neon, I almost consider it a living thing,” he said
“Neon loves the dark, it is like a beautiful woman, it wants to be looked at, it wants to be seen and it wants to be loved.”
A Londoner, born and bred, Mr Bracey describes Suffolk as his “bolt hole” where he comes to escape the pressures of city life.
After many years holidaying in Aldeburgh, he and his wife Linda bought a rundown wooden cottage in Thorpeness which they demolished to make way for their “Shangri-la”.
“All I ever wanted in the world was to live in a house on a dirt track looking out across the trees and so that was it for me, something I’ve wanted more than anything else in the world,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic village and all the local people are so friendly and nice.”
Taking timber from the cottage, built for servicemen during the Second World War, Mr Bracey made a collection of neon designs themed around love.
“I took a building that was created for war and made all things to do with love,” he said,
“It became really popular and sold all over the world.”
Although Mr Bracey credits his father for teaching him the “dark art” of making neon, he thanks his mother, Doreen Bracey, a Great Bricett resident, for his nurturing his creative talents.
“My mum had an appreciation and love for art and I think that’s the reason I’ve been a success,” he said.
Mr Bracey runs his own gallery, God’s Own Junkyard, in London and also has a permanent display in Selfridges.
“Every time I make a piece, that effect when I switch it on for the first time takes me back to childhood, it’s such a fantastic feeling,” he said.