Dazzle camouflage was first used during WWI to disguise the form of a ship and create an optical illusion, making it difficult for an enemy to target.
Rehberger’s dazzle camouflage design has been applied to HMS President (1918) and is a commission by 14-18 NOW, a cultural activity programme marking the centenary of the conflict.
Chelsea College of Art and Design, Liverpool Biennial and Tate Liverpool are all part of the commissioning team.
The HMS President – which was designed for anti-submarine warfare and would have originally been painted with a dazzle design – is now moored permanently on the Thames near Somerset House.
Rehberger is not new to the dazzle technique, which has been a recurring theme in his work over the years.
In 2009 he was awarded the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale for an entire café he had rendered in dazzle print.
Dazzle camouflage came to notoriety through the work of marine painter Norman Wilkinson, who captured the ships’ system of distorted stripes and lines and coined the term dazzle.
Picasso claimed the style was invented by the Cubists, while Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth arguably popularised it when he painted a series on the subject after overseeing the dazzle patterning of over 2000 ships.
The designs, which appeared on British warships, were first painted on to scale models, many by women from the Royal Academy of Arts in London, before being scaled up for application to the ships.
In Liverpool, Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has dazzle camouflaged the historic pilot ship, the Edmund Gardner as a companion work to Rehberger’s design. Conserved by Merseyside Maritime Museum, the ship is situated in a dry dock adjacent to Liverpool’s Albert Dock and will be a new public monument for the city.
Dazzle Ship London by Tobias Rehberger launched yesterday on the Thames, at Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0HJ