Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ciara Phillips | Exquisite Dazzle-Camouflaged Ship

Dazzle-camouflaged ship |  Ciara Phillips
This is the centenary span of years that marks the occurrence of World War I, from 1914 to 1919. As early as 2014, various agencies began to provide opportunities for artists and arts organizations (especially in the UK) to revisit the process of applying dazzle camouflage schemes to currently existing ships. We’ve featured quite a few of those on earlier blog posts, including those in London, Liverpool, the Island of Jersey and (in Australia) on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. There were others as well.

There is one we haven’t yet mentioned, oddly enough, because it’s easily one of our favorites. It differs from the others, because some of those, although their designs are disruptive, do not have a lot to do with the dazzle camouflage schemes that were used in WWI. Sometimes this may have occurred because the artists commissioned were too intent on being uniquely “creative,” on arriving at something appropriate for our own time period, or on using the opportunity to endorse a pressing social concern.

Actually, there’s no reason why all three of those intentions can’t have been emphasized—and, at the same time, have given priority to a design that was in keeping with the intentions of the WWI camouflage artists. The designs that they produced were not arbitrary confusions, not radical juxtapositions of bits. They were certainly accused of that, but as was explained at the time by American ship camoufleur Everett Longley Warner

…it was precisely when our work was most firmly grounded on the book of Euclid that the uninitiated were the most positive that the ships were being painted haphazard by a group of crazy cubists.

Of the recent centenary ships, the most successful one (I think) was designed by Ciara Phillips, titled Every Woman Dazzle Ship, for the Edinburgh Art Festival (EAF) and 14-18 NOW. There’s an online time lapse video of the painting process, and a brief but informative interview with the artist. By the way, it was of particular interest to learn that one of Phillips’ primary influences was the work of American printmaker and social activist Corita Kent, a favorite artist of ours as well.