I suppose one of the appeals of ‘urban art’ is that it can crop up anywhere, really. By far the most unique example I’ve come across (in more ways than one) has to be Ciara Philips’ “dazzle ship” as part of this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival.

As astonishing as the design is, the story behind the ship is just as amazing.

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The MV Fingal, now docked at the Prince of Wales dock in the historic port of Leith, sticks out with its striking design and bold lines and colours. Amazing then, that this type of design was used in the first and second world wars as a form of camouflage.

The design from Glasgow-based Turner Prize nominee Philips was inspired by the team of women who worked under British marine artist Norman Wilkinson, inventor of the “dazzle” technique.

It’s a little known fact that most of these designs were devised by women, and included in this piece is a message in Morse code embedded within the pattern in retro reflective paint reading “Every Woman a Signal Tower”.

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Characterised by brilliant, glaring geometric patterns these designs were widely used in both world wars.

Instead of aiming to make the ship invisible to the enemy, it set out to confuse their attempts to sink it by making it difficult to accurately gauge the distance, direction and speed of travel.

A brilliantly outlandish stroke of genius. I wonder what happened during the meeting where that idea was brought up…

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Ciara’s ship design won’t be blending in down Leith way.

Instead it stands bright against the bland port surroundings, and is a welcome addition to the area, having briefly departed to Queensferry for the Battle of Jutland commemorations this weekend.

A really spectacular sight to see in person.

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Check it out now, and read more about the project on the 14-18 NOW website which includes a number of other designs across the UK.

Steven
UKB

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