Artist’s mural inspired by British ‘dazzle ships’ of WWI

Harold Hollingsworth’s wall painting will be on display until June 2 at the Schack. (Video)

What’s it like to create a work of art, knowing from the moment of your first brushstrokes that the image will be erased in five weeks?

Seattle artist Harold Hollingsworth said not only does he not mind, it adds to its fun.

“There’s a looseness about it — almost like drawing in a sketchbook,” he said of the work, painted in a hall of Schack Art Center’s mezzanine.

He was asked to create the wall painting as part of the art center’s exhibit, “The Intersection of Art + Math,” which runs through June 2.

“It’s a good opportunity to take on a tight space and make it look different or interesting,” he said. “I think it’s more kind of adding a flavor to the show.”

His mural, a mix of bold diagonal black, white and gray stripes, was inspired in part by the designs of the British “Dazzle Ships” of World War I.

“If you look online at some of the photographs of the Dazzle ships, they can be rather confusing to look at,” Hollingsworth said.

The ships were painted with black stripes and gray accents — a step taken to try to confuse enemy ships on their position and bearing. The visual effect resulted in the hull of a ship appearing bent in or out.

“So in a sense, you couldn’t tell what was the front or the rear or the height of it,” he said.

British painter Bridget Riley began using similar techniques in her works from the 1960s, which Hollingsworth became familiar with before learning of its World War I antecedents.

Before enrolling in art school at Western Washington University, Hollingsworth toured faculty art shows at schools throughout the state looking for “who was the most interesting or dynamic.”

He chose Western based on the work of Bob Jensen, “who pushed me out of my comfort zone continually.”

As a painter in Washington, Hollingsworth said he sometimes felt an expectation that his style carry on the traditions of famed painters from the Northwest School, such as Morris Graves, Guy Anderson and Mark Tobey.

Hollingsworth didn’t feel compelled to take his direction from this expectation. “I was going to Europe and seeing shows in Berlin and London,” he said.

He wanted to develop and follow his own style, saying his attitude was: “I belong to the world community, not this the Northwest School you want me to tie into.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

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