Back in April I took a picture of the old MV Fingal (a retired lighthouse tender vessel) being repainted in primer, obviously being readied for a new paint job (see here www.flickr.com/photos/woolamaloo_gazette/26685110192/). As it turned out that new paint job was by Scottish-based artist Ciara Phillips and it was the fourth in a series around the UK marking the 14-18 Now centenary memorials making 100 years since the Great War, involving ships being painted by contemporary artists in a modern style based on the famous wartime Dazzle camouflage.
Dazzle, developed by artist Norman Wilkinson during the First World War. Obviously unlike a soldier or a tank you can't use traditional camouflage to hide a ship on the high seas. So instead, inspired by modern art he chose bold colours and abstract patterns which would break up the silhouette of the ships, making it hard for the first generation of U-Boats to identify what kind of ship it was, size and even direction. Imagine a pattern like this on a ship viewed through a periscope as it lurches about on huge waves and you start to see where it would make life more difficult. I've only ever seen Dazzle in old history book photographs, quite remarkable to see it applied to a real ship with my own eyes.
Part war memorial, part art installation, as well as being a component of the UK-wide 14-18 Now events it is also part of this summer's Edinburgh Art Festival and is moored down in the docks at the historic Port of Leith edinburghartfestival.com/dazzle. I wonder how many of the great ships of the WWI Royal Navy sailed past this very point coming to and from the naval base at nearby Rosyth on the Forth (still an active naval base, in fact two brand new aircraft carriers are coming to life there right now). This stretch of the mighty Firth of Forth leading to the North Sea still retains the marks from both world wars, with decaying old wartime fortifications on many of the islands. The past, always pressing in on the present...