Dazzle Ship – HMS President

Client: Chelsea College of Arts
Sector: Construction
Services: Install, Print

With the Dazzle Ship, PressOn are winners of the FESPA Gold Award 2015 for “International Out Of Home Campaign of the Year” and also winner of the People’s Choice Award 2015 from FESPA.

To help mark the centenary of the First World War, 1418 NOW asked PressOn to wrap an entire ex Royal Navy warship, HMS President, in dazzle print camouflage vinyl. The HMS President’s design was created by European artist Tobias Rehberger, one of the most respected European artists of our generation. A stunning video of this process made by David Kew is on YouTube. The ship is now berthed by Victoria Embankment on the Thames and has become a popular tourist attraction and local landmark.

HMS President is one of three surviving Royal Navy warships built during the war and served as a dazzle ship in the First World War. The inspiration for the design came from the famous glaring colours and jagged lines of camouflage created to confuse enemy U-boat captains. Before radar, the designs served to confuse the enemy and mask the outline, speed and direction of travel of the ship.

PressOn worked on the project in close collaboration with the artist’s studio and design team advising on artwork, materials and installation. Preparing the artwork was labour intensive as PressOn needed to make a 3D object appear as 2D through an optical illusion. 3D architectural scans of the hull were made and a 3D rendering expert contracted to create an algorithm to distort each panel of artwork. In total 192 bespoke panels were created for the port and starboard sides of HMS President’s hull.

The project involved printing on 2,000 sq. m of polymeric multi-fix vinyl and was printed on PressOn’s HP LX 3000, utilising its rapid throughput and maximum printing width of 3.2m.

The most challenging aspect of the project though was the installation. Installing vinyl in the water of the Thames with rising and falling tides was a logistical challenge with many 3am starts in the cold and dark water. A small vessel circled the HMS President during low tides enabling the installers to fit and heat the vinyl and smooth it across the irregular surface of the hull.  Then the at height installation involved ropes and harnesses for the crews. 12 installers took 10 days to complete the job.

From concept meeting to installation, the project took just three weeks to complete.

This project captured the attention of the World’s media.

The Guardian
Daily Mail
Print Week on the Dazzle Ship

Testimonial from our client Elizabeth Cameron, Chelsea College of Arts.

“I am writing in support of PressOn, who worked closely with ourselves at Chelsea College of Arts in realising our ambition to transform HMS President (1918) by wrapping it in ‘dazzle’ print vinyl as part of the cultural programming surrounding the centenary of WW1. HMS President (1918) is permanently berthed on the River Thames and is an original Q ship from this period and was originally dazzled. ‘Dazzle’ camouflage itself, was invented during the First World War as a method of confusing the enemy about the direction of travel and class of ship. Predominantly it was used to protect our cargo fleet who were carrying provisions to the UK from around the British Empire.

The Dazzle project was completed in July 2014 and the installation will remain until at least February 2015. It was a joint collaboration between ourselves, 14-18 NOW, and Liverpool Biennial. What impressed me during from the outset, through to completion was how PressOn met this project with professionalism and a real ‘can do’ attitude at all times, despite its challenging nature. Not only was the scale of the ship huge, the time frame for completion extremely short, the artwork complex they, like us all, had not worked on such project before but there was never a sour face or a cross word even though the hours were long and the installation physically and mentally demanding. Every member of their team always greeted myself and my colleagues with good humour, a smile and a willingness to show me what they had been doing and it is fair to say that their enthusiasm and the accountability to completing the project to the highest possible standard was outstanding.

HMS President (1918) is moored on the tidal Thames which has a twelve metre difference between high and low tides, and is also very busy water way with many craft passing by and creating a wake behind them that not only destabilised the support vessel that was being used but also made the ship itself move up and down. This was without doubt a hostile environment for vinyl installation to take place in.

It took PressOn’s team of five installers 10 days to fit the vinyl on to the ship but behind the scenes they worked closely with the Artist (Tobias Rehberger) and his team in Frankfurt in realising his artistic vision and ambition for his work. The technical expertise that PressOn have in house ensured that despite the multi-dimensional aspects of the ship and it’s irregular shape they were always able to offer solutions for the very complicated installation. These ranged from simply patching areas which had not been specifically designed for with extra pieces of vinyl to producing a 3D architectural scans that allowed the artwork to be effectively manipulated to fit the ships shape whilst not losing the integrity of Tobias’ work.   To achieve this, 96 unique panels were created and it is this sort of attention to detail that has made HMS President (1918) gain the attention from the World’s media.

Elizabeth Cameron
Business Relationship Manager
Chelsea College of Arts.”

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