Wandering home this weekend after bank holiday brunch on Wood Street (Lot 107, highly recommended), my husband and I took a detour along Vallentin Road to get to Walthamstow Village - and thank God's Own Junkyard we did.
Set against a blue cloudy sky and peeking over the top of some spiky barbed wire was a white sign emblazoned with these three intriguing words. I couldn't resist a peek through a gap in the fence and my brain failed to compute what my eyes were showing me - a heap of unlit neon signs, discarded lightbulb alphabet letters, and huge great circus wheels adorned with half-naked showgirls. Blue cows, vintage signs, gargantuan fluorescent shoes and a life-size Jesus himself with a beaming neon halo. It was like trespassing on an empty film set when shooting has wrapped and all the actors have gone back to their trailers. If this scrapyard was a scene in CSI Las Vegas, you can bet your casino winnings that a dead body would show up here.
It was eerie, almost apocalyptic but absolutely fascinating. I knew immediately we had discovered something extraordinary.
Walking inside God's Own Junkyard's pop-up space is a feast for the visual senses and it is so scintillating it literally stops you in your tracks. There is nothing sombre here - instead kitsch, neon signs and light sculptures adorn every wall, prop up chairs or lean gracefully against each other in blazing harmony. Also on display are old movie props, fairground and circus offcuts and architectural sign salvage.
This is the base for London-based light artist Chris Bracey, known as the 'Neon Man' and famous for over thirty years for creating iconic art pieces and installations for a dazzling list of high-profile clients such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and David LaChapelle. He has a huge cult following in London and Los Angeles and is famous for neonising Gotham City, creating the Metropolis in Superman (in the original Superman movie the baby placed in the spaceship by Marlon Brando is his son) and providing the amazing backdrop for Willy Wonka's Factory for Tim Burton. He first got into the business in the 1970s when he started making signs for Soho's seedy sex industry including the infamous GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS sign outside The Pink Pussycat Club.
Chris creates and installs instantly recognisable signs that have appeared behind some of the world's greatest stars.When filming is over he also salvages unwanted and unloved neons and bulb icons before they disappear forever and then they are 'repaired and resurrected, coupled with quirky art and powered up to shine like jewels of light'.
He has a number of celebrity clients including Jude Law, Kate Moss and Jamie Oliver. His iconic work for popular culture includes creating powerful imagery for fashion shoots, bringing a sense of glamour and luxury. Recent work includes the lightning bolt for David Bowie's Exhibition at the V&A Museum, a neon Union Jack installation for Kate Moss in the new Rimmel advert and an installation for Jay Z's Roc Nation. He also produced work for the great David LaChapelle for his controversial and fabulous 'Vegas Supernova' window display for Selfridges in 2005.
We over stayed our visit at God's Own Junkyard - it was difficult to escape the pull of this dazzling and phosphorescent fantasy world and leave hyper-reality, and we reluctantly left already planning when we could come again (and if it would be feasible to re-mortgage our house, or rob a bank, to purchase our own neon collectible). At the very least I will be checking out his new solo exhibition at Scream from 12th April.
This is AwesomeStow at its best. I strongly encourage you to visit God's Own Junkyard - where neon never dies.