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On the razzle dazzle

On the razzle dazzle

Contra Vision has been used as part of the 14-18 NOW special commissions programme to mark the centenary of World War One, when it helped to transform a WW1 warship, a floating venue moored on the Thames, back into a wartime ‘Dazzle’ ship. 2,400 merchant ships and warships were dazzle camouflaged, typically plying the Atlantic in convoy with wartime supplies

HMS President, now a conference venue, floating bar and restaurant moored at Victoria Embankment in London was once HMS Saxifrage, an anti-submarine warship, completed in 1918 and one of the last three surviving warships of the Royal Navy built during WW1.

As part of the nationwide commemorations of the beginning of WW1, the ship has been covered in Dazzle graphics.  Dazzle patterns were the first attempt to camouflage warships, not by offering concealment but by using complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours that interrupted and intersected each other. This made it difficult for an enemy to estimate the range, speed and direction of a target.

The ship has been transformed by leading German artist Tobias Rehberger, who covered it entirely in a ‘dazzle’ camouflage print. Tobias commented, “Dazzle painting to me perfectly represents the idea of ‘not seeing something’ as these camouflage patterns were designed to hide objects.”

Dazzle has an interesting artistic history. Picasso claimed the cubists invented it and now HMS President has been ‘wrapped’ with self-adhesive material printed by Rochester-based large format digital printer PressOn, using Contra Vision Performance perforated material on the windows to provide a modern version of how an original ‘Dazzle’ ship might have looked. The large picture windows, which were added to the ship when it became a floating venue, provided the perfect vehicle for applying Contra Visionsee-throughgraphics, whichenabled the whole ship to be covered by the ‘dazzle’ design.

This is also an excellent example of how Contra Vision can be imaginatively used to enhance artistic projects, something Contra Vision is keen to promote. Roland Hill, the company’s Chairman and Managing Director, sits on the board of the Liverpool Biennial and there is also a Dazzle ship moored in Albert Dock in Liverpool to link the WW1 Centenary with the Liverpool Biennial and some of the events happening nationwide.

The project was co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the WW1 Centenary Art Commissions and Liverpool Biennial in association with University of the Arts London Chelsea College of Arts, HMS President (1918) and Tate Liverpool, in partnership with Merseyside Maritime Museum, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Dazzle Ship London is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Goethe-Institut London.


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