Dazzle Ships: HMS President

by • July 14, 2014 • Art, Blog, Visual


The First World War doesn’t exactly jump out as a catalyst for artistic expression but it was exactly that which proved to be the inspiration for the bastard child of vorticist and surrealist experimentation to meet camouflage theory, on great big war ships no less. Originally the idea of the scientist John Graham Kerr in 1914, Dazzle Painting was later given it’s name by Norman Wilkinson, the marine painter who, alongside vorticist Edward Wadsworth, oversaw the painting of thousands of marine ships in an effort to camouflage them in plain site. Intended to make it more difficult to calculate the ships’ course rather than hide them, the optical illusions created by intertwined gradients and stripes would make them a confusing target.


Now, a hundred years later, artist Tobias Rehberger has updated the technique for the modern era, taking on the giant canvas of the 1918 naval ship HMS President with a dizzying maze of b&w circles and lines. Parked on Victoria Embankment, it’s brutal, imposing metal structure blends with the waves lapping below it as they reflect the shimmering glass of the capital’s modern buildings. Check out the photos below, find out more here and stroll along the Thames from tomorrow (July 15th) to see for yourself.


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