PAINTERS from Birkenhead shipyard Cammel Lairds have today swapped a lifetime working with with battleship grey for something a little more exciting.
They have begun work on Dazzle Ship, teaming up with a very different kind of painter to do it.
Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz Diez, one of the world's leading lights in contemporary art, will be leading the team as they "dazzle" the pilot cutter Edmund Gardner situated in dry dock adjacent to Liverpool’s Albert Dock.
It is all part of a co-commission by Liverpool Biennial, Tate Liverpool and 14-18 NOW WW1 Centenary Art Commission.
Dazzle painting was a system for camouflaging ships that was introduced in early 1917, at a time when German submarines were threatening to cut off Britain’s trade and supplies. The idea was not to “hide” the ships, but to paint them in such a way that their appearance was optically distorted, so that it was difficult for a submarine to calculate the course the ship was travelling on, and so know from what angle to attack.
The “dazzle” was achieved by painting the ship in contrasting stripes and curves that broke up its shape. Characterised by garish colours and a sharp patchwork design of interlocking shapes, the spectacular ‘dazzle’ style was heavily indebted to Cubism.
The results will be seen during the International Festival for Business and will be accompanied by a display exploring the history of dazzle ships and the role of artists in the First World War.
Cammell Laird CEO John Syvret said: "Cammell Laird is steeped in naval history and played a key role in the First World War. We feel honoured to help commemorate the occasion by 'dazzling' the Edmund Gardner. The project provides a meaningful way for Cammell Laird to reflect on the immense contribution the company made to the country during the war years.
“The newly dazzled Edmund Gardner will create an important and thought provoking public monument for Merseyside and the wider UK. We are also very pleased to support the Liverpool Biennial in its efforts to encourage visitors and investment to the region."
During World War One Cammell Laird completed work on nine battleships, 60 cruisers, 100 British and 95 United States destroyers, eight submarines, 123 armed merchant vessels and 107 merchant ships. The Cunard passenger liner Campania and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co steamer Ben-My-Chee were also converted at Cammell Laird into the first seaplane carriers for the Royal Navy.
The Dazzle Ship will be launched on Thursday 12 June and will remain in the camouflage until the end of 2015 when she will be returned to her original Edmund Gardner livery.
About the artist
Carlos Cruz-Diez is one of the great figures of contemporary art, especially kinetic-optic art. His works can be found in the permanent collections of Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.
Born in Caracas in 1923, his art proposal, one of the most original of that movement, reveals him as one of the last theorists about colour. His research is based on three chromatic conditions: subtractive, additive and reflected, and has brought art a new way of understanding the phenomenon of colour, greatly expanding its perceptual universe.
Cruz-Diez's work revolves around colour conceived as an autonomous reality, progressing in space and real time without past or future - in a perpetual present. In his works, colour appears as a reality that can exist without the help of traditional form.