Good Sailing - Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, 2011
A semi-permanent vinyl commission for the exterior walls of the new Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool. The gallery is based on Mann Island, a new development in Liverpool's docks, close to the Tate. The bold, colourful, design is based on the 'Dazzle Camouflage' designs of the First World War. Many of the ships that were painted with this design were painted in these docks.
'Dazzle Camouflage' was developed by the artist Norman Wilkinson. The application of this bold geometric pattern to a vehicle made it very difficult for the enemy to determine its exact shape, direction, or speed, thereby making it impossible to accurately launch heavy artillery towards it; they were no longer hiding from their adversaries, just making it impossible for them to determine their movements.
My interest in this design, and in applying it to the exterior of an art gallery, is the the notion of 'hiding in plain sight'. It's my belief that art galleries are places that are embraced by our culture and our cities, but also function as agitators; spaces in which difficult and awkward questions can get asked. The quotation in the work is the final words of the well-known naturalist and political agitator, Henry David Thoreau.
'Now comes good sailing...', in the context of a dying man's final words, are serene and poetic; the suggestion that life has, in some way, been a constant struggle and was now about to ease. Removed from this context and represented, the statement becomes a more direct statement of aspiration and hope, for the gallery, for the community, for the world.
Those 'difficult questions' that galleries are in a position to ask are the kinds of questions he spent his life asking. In bringing these seemingly disparate reference points together, the work stands alone as something new – a recognition of the history of its parts, but a bold new statement that stands on its own two feet and moves forward with independence.
To see the info on the Open Eye Gallery website, click HERE
For a nice little piece on the 'It's Nice That' website, click HERE
Image used with kind permission of Mark McNulty