Contra Vision Dazzles on the Thames

Contra Vision has been used as part of the 14-18 NOW special commissions program to mark the centenary of World War One. Contra Vision helped turn a WW1 warship, a floating venue moored on the Thames, back into a wartime ‘ Dazzle’ ship.

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 which interrupted and intersected each other. This makes it difficult for an enemy to estimate the range, speed and direction of a target.

The ship has been transformed by leading 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.’

Contra Vision provided the perfect solution to covering the whole of the ship as our materials allow artists and others to play with many different options for managing what is both seen and not seen. The images were printed by PressOn printers in Kent.

Dazzle has an interesting artistic history. Picasso claimed the cubists invented it and now HMS President has been ‘wrapped’ with 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 Vision see- through graphics which allowed the whole ship to be covered by the ‘dazzle’ design.

This is also an excellent example of how Contra Vision can be used on artistic projects, something Contra Vision is keen to promote. Roland Hill, 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.

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