Friday, 5 June 2015

Tobias Rehberger: Dazzle Ship


I was walking along the Thames for the first time in a long while and noticed this interestingly painted ship. On further investigation it turned out to be the work of artist Tobias Rehberger, and part of a series of ships painted in the 'dazzle' style commissioned for the 14-18 NOW official cultural programme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

I was aware of artist Edward Wadsworth's paintings and prints which took as their subject the 'dazzle' ships, as they were an influence on my early illustrative and print work. They are so strong and graphic.

'Dazzle' camouflage was a technique developed and used during the First World War, and painting the ships with striking patterns such as stripes and curves was an attempt to make it harder for the enemy to locate, target and sink ships.The idea of 'Dazzling' the ships was first put forward by scientist John Graham Kerr who's theory was to optically distort the ships rather than try to hide them so that submarines would find it hard to judge the distances and courses of the ships.

Painter Norman Wilkinson is credited with coming up with the 'dazzle painting' term and devising the striking colours and clashing lines which characterised the technique. The 'dazzle' style of the ships chimed with artistic styles and movements of the time such as Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism.

Rehberger's other artistic projects and installations also use 'dazzle' painting (below), and his ship certainly looks impressive on the Thames. It must be great to have the opportunity to work on such a vast scale.

Apparently there are two more ships in the series painted by Sir Peter Blake and Carlos Cruz-Diez respectively.

Blake's 'dazzled' Pop-Art Mersey ferry looks really fun.