The vibrant ‘dazzle’ designs, which were used extensively during the First World War as a means of camouflaging war ships, are the inspiration for two spectacular art commissions in Liverpool and London this summer which are part of the 14-18 NOW programme to mark the centenary of the First World War.
In Liverpool, Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has worked with the idea of Dazzle using the historic pilot ship Edmund Gardner, to be launched today, as part of the Liverpool Biennial, and co-commissioned by Tate Liverpool. Owned and conserved by Merseyside Maritime Museum, which is part of National Museums Liverpool, the ship is situated in a dry dock adjacent to Liverpool’s Albert Dock and will be a new public monument for the city.
In London, the HMS President (1918), which served as a Dazzle Ship during the First World War, will be ‘dazzled’ by leading German artist Tobias Rehberger. Co- commissioned with Chelsea College of Art and Design and Liverpool Biennial in association with HMS President, the work will be unveiled on 14 July 2014.
Liverpool Biennial with Tate Liverpool and 14-18 NOW, the official cultural programme for the First World War Centenary Commemorations, have co-commissioned the ‘Dazzle Ship’ in Liverpool in partnership with National Museums Liverpool. The Edmund Gardner is owned and conserved by Merseyside Maritime Museum, which is part of National Museums Liverpool, and ‘dazzled’ in dry dock adjacent to Albert Dock Liverpool.
Carlos Cruz-Diez said: “When I looked at Dazzle Ships they were artworks created for war and to avoid death, so I wanted to turn this into something reflecting the colour and energy of this city that represents life and light.” Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW said: “We are absolutely delighted to be launching the 14-18 NOW programme with this wonderful project. We congratulate Carlos Cruz-Diez and his team for making it possible. Liverpool now has a wonderful new landmark which reflects its rich maritime heritage.” Sally Tallant, Director of Liverpool Biennial, said: “It has been a privilege to work together with our partners to commission Carlos Cruz-Diez to create a new public artwork for Liverpool. That the ship has been painted by Cammell Laird’s painters has added to the sense of history and it has been fantastic to work with them to make this contemporary interpretation of a Dazzle Ship possible. We look forward to welcoming thousands of people to visit this new dazzling public monument.”
The ‘dazzle’ technique, immortalised in Edward Wadsworth’s 1919 painting Dazzle-ship in Drydock at Liverpool, was undertaken and inspired by artists of the time. Wadsworth himself supervised the camouflaging of over 2,000 warships. Unlike other forms of camouflage, Dazzle works not by concealing but by making it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed and direction. Artist Norman Wilkinson, credited with inventing the technique, explained that Dazzle was intended primarily to mislead the enemy: each ship’s Dazzle pattern was unique in order to avoid making classes of ships instantly recognisable to the opposition.
Carlos Cruz-Diez (Caracas, 1923) has lived and worked in Paris since 1960. His artistic roots reach back to the Movimiento Cinético [Kinetic Movement] of the 1950s and 1960s. As his thinking on the visual arts has evolved, his ideas have changed attitudes on how colour is perceived in art. According to his artist’s statement, colour is an autonomous reality, devoid of anecdotes, that evolves in real time and space with no need of form or support. Carlos Cruz-Diez’s artistic proposal is based on eight research projects that reveal the myriad ways in which colour behaves: Couleur Additive [Additive Colour], Physichromie, Induction Chromatique [Chromatic Induction], Chromointerférence, Transchromie, Chromosaturation, Chromoscope, and Couleur dans l’espace [Colour in Space]. His works are part of the permanent collections at institutions such as: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Among his recent exhibitions are: “Carlos Cruz-Diez: Color in Space and Time”, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, United States (2011), “Carlos Cruz- Diez: El color en el espacio y en el tiempo”, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano (MALBA – Fundación Constantini), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2011), “Cruz-Diez: Color in Space”, Jeonbuk Province Art Museum, Jeonbuk, South Korea (2012), “Carlos Cruz-Diez: A cor no espaço e no tempo” Pinacoteca do estado Sao Paulo, Brazil (2012), “Carlos Cruz- Diez: Circumstance and Ambiguity of Color”, Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA Museum), Beijing, China (2013), “Light Show”, Hayward Gallery, London, U.K. (2013), “La Invención Concreta: Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros”, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain (2013), “Dynamo. Un siècle de lumière et de mouvement dans l’art. 1913-2013”, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, France (2013)
Liverpool Biennial Runs From 5 July – 26 October 2014