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From an Old Ship, A New Canvas Emerges

Friday, December 14, 2012

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When life dumps a rusted cruise liner on your local beach for 30-odd years, what do you do?

Well, if you're a group of international street artists, there's only one answer.

FinDAC - Duke of Lancaster

The latest mural was painted by Irish artist Fin DAC, who describes his style as Urban Aesthetics.

"Your ship looked like **** so we painted it!" is the pithy explanation from DuDug, the group that is taking credit for transforming the derelict carcass of The Duke of Lancaster into a bigger-than-life canvas for a new urban portrait gallery.

'Take the Boat Back'

The former luxury liner-turned-passenger ferry has sat on the North Wales coastline since Aug. 10, 1979.

For years, the plan was to turn the once-elegant ship into a floating leisure and retail complex called The Fun Ship, "but the project never achieved its full potential, due to many long-running legal disputes with the local council," reports a website dedicated to the ship.

dudug video

Artist Kiwie works on a mural on The Duke of Lancaster. So far, 22 artists are participating in the international grass-roots effort to turn the old ship into the UK's largest open-air gallery.

Although "a beautiful creation and a real engineering break through," DuDug reports, the ship has now "been left to waste away and go derelict."

"At a time when the country is once again in turmoil and we are involved with a number of wars, the streets have decided it’s time to take the boat back," the group says. "The people are feeling empowered."

After years of decay, the group's members, who hail from across Europe, decided to act.

From Galley to Gallery

The result is an emerging, massive gallery of edgy, beautiful, and political murals and images—monkeys, Geisha girls, monsters and more—created in recent weeks by street artists from a variety of countries.

This is no hit-and-run stealth project by a ragtag band of taggers. Not only do videos show several artists at work, but the group has a goal—backed by a business plan—to make the ship the largest open-air art gallery in the UK. Twenty-two artists have signed up, and more are negotiating, according to DuDug.

Duke of Lancaster
PDTillman / Wikimedia

Once an elegant cruise liner, the ship had sat on the beach in North Wales since 1979.

Nor is the group's interest merely skin deep. Dudug has studied the ship's history as well and reports this:

"Some of the boats rooms are still sealed, and it is clear now from the ship’s plans these were the decontamination rooms that have been sealed to protect their secret. However there are still some clear clues as to the ship’s real purpose, for those with an understanding of ship design. For example, she has a destroyer-type hull rather than the typical cruise-liner hull of the day."

Maurice's Addiction

The project's director and brainchild identifies herself as Maurice, a Londoner and former street artist who said she was adrift until she spotted the ship from a train on her way to Dublin.

"I almost pulled the emergency cord," she writes. "I knew then I wanted to attempt something special," The ship "became an addiction, one bigger than I’ve ever experienced before, and I was possessed."

She "got in touch with some of my old contacts and ran the idea of painting her by them," and the project grew from there.


Why create a canvas from a blighted old ferry?

"It took me ages to finally track down the owners and persuade them I wasn’t a crank," Maurice writes. As she did, she built a network of designers, marketers and business people to support the project.

Eventually, the group delivered a full-blown business plan to the ship's owner, who replied, "I'm willing to give you youngsters a chance."

The owner "quickly [realized] how important Street Art is to many young people, giving them the means to express themselves in such a depressed era," writes Maurice.

"The whole of Europe is struggling and [none] more so than people like me.

"People who can make a difference, but just need a chance."


Tagged categories: Design; Graffiti; Marine Coatings; Murals; Project Management

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