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A ‘Dazzling’ Commemoration

Monday, July 18, 2016

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Dazzle camouflage may have been a functional painting method used on World War I ships to confuse the enemy’s visual perception, but right now it’s part of an eye-catching art project marking the centenary of the First World War in the U.K.

Artist Ciara Phillips was commissioned by the Edinburgh Art Festival (EAF) and 14-18 NOW (a WWI centenary arts commissions group) to design and paint the fourth in a series of “dazzle ships” as part of its memorial arts program, the EAF site noted.

Ross Attenburgh

In “Every Woman,” artist Ciara Phillips put her own interpretation of the camouflage patterns, or dazzle painting, that adorned battle-ready ships in WWI on the MV Fingal as part of 14-18 NOW’s centenary commemoration program.

Phillips “dazzled” the MV Fingal to mark 100 years since the Battle of Jutland, a June 1916 naval battle fought near the coast of Denmark's Jutland Peninsula. It was reported to be the largest naval battle in that war, the only full-scale clash of battleships and the last major battle fought primarily by battleships.

Named “Every Woman,” her floating art piece features a concept focused on the roles women played in the wartime effort.

Sherwin-Williams Protective and Marine Coatings donated the specialist coatings product used in the project, the company said in a statement.

Untold Histories

Used extensively during WWI, “Dazzle camouflage,” also known as “razzle dazzle” and “dazzle painting,” was invented by marine artist Norman Wilkinson, 14-18 NOW explained.

The painting method made use of contrasting colors and geometric shapes, not to hide the ship but to confuse the enemy by making it hard to determine the range, speed and direction of travel of the dazzled vessels.

While planning her “dazzle” design for MV Fingal, Phillips said she was drawn to the largely untold histories of women in war—including the team of women who worked under Wilkinson to develop the dazzle designs.

“My preparatory work for ‘Every Woman’ focused on the lesser-known role of women artists in the creation of the original Dazzle ships and this work pays tribute to them,” she said.

Moreover, because women also worked as telegraphists and signalers during the war, Phillips’ design includes a message in Morse code in retro reflective paint that reads Every Woman a Signal Tower.

The message will shine out in the darkness, celebrating the ship’s former role as a supplier to remote lighthouses.

Translating the Vision with Paint

Phillps worked with a team of scenic painters to translate her illustrated concept onto the ship’s body, she said in an interview with 14-18 NOW, and welcomed their know-how when it came to transferring her vision.

“[T]hat’s what they do all they time, they translate things up,” she said, describing the process; “it’s been done in quite a simple way just by referring to a drawing and drawing directly on to the surface of the ship and using string and masking tape and charcoal.”

She also appreciated that the team for this woman-centric design was largely made up of female scenic painters.

“I see this as an artwork that refers both to a historical legacy, whilst also offering a contemporary message of empowerment to women everywhere,” she said. “I am extremely thankful to all the collaborators involved in realising the project and especially to the team of talented artists who have brought the artwork to life."

Sherwin-Williams reportedly provided its C530 range of products for the vessel to provide protection in marine environments.

“We are very grateful to Sherwin-Williams for their support on this commission, contributing the coating for the ship,” said EAF Director Sorcha Carey.

In addition to the paint supplier, the project received support from the Scottish government, Creative Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council, Forth Ports and the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust.

Dazzle Ships Series

"Every Woman" is the fourth in the series of dazzle ships, and follows the success of dazzle ships in London and Liverpool through 14-18 NOW’s partnership with Liverpool Biennial.

"Every Woman" is berthed at the Prince of Wales Dock in the historic port of Leith, Scotland. It will be a central element of Edinburgh Art Festival, July 28 to Aug. 28.

Earlier ships in the series included:

Artist Tobias Rehberger's work on the HMS President (1918):

Tobias Rehberger's dazzle ship
Chris Wainwright

Rotherberger's paint job of the HMS President was on view along the River Thames in London from July 2014 through Dec. 31, 2015.

Artist Carlos Cruz-Diez's dazzling of the Edmund Gardner:

Cruz-Diez dazzle ship
Helen Hunt

Cruz-Diez's paint job on the Edmund Gardner was on view at the Albert Dock in Liverpool from June 2014 through December 2015.

Sir Peter Blake's work on the Mersey Ferry, Snowdrop, titled "Everybody Razzle Dazzle":

Sir Peter Blake's dazzle ship
Ant Clausen

"Everybody Razzle Dazzle" went on view on the River Mersey in Liverpool in April 2015 and remains on site through December 2016.

Fingal’s Future

Launched in August 1963, the 239-foot MV Fingal was the last ship built by the Blythswood Shipbuilding Company, Glasgow. Retired from service in 2000, in July 2014 the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust acquired Fingal and are in the process of finalizing designs for conversion into a floating 20-bedroom “boatique hotel,” which is slated to open in 2018.

Editor's note: Text edited to include quote about Sherwin-Williams donation.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Application; Coatings; Donations; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Historic Structures; Latin America; Marine; Marine Coatings; North America; Protective Coatings; Sherwin-Williams; Ships and vessels; Shipyards

Comment from Gordon Kuljian, (7/18/2016, 6:11 PM)

...kind of looks like Maryland's state flag.

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