elise campbell
Paint on board
1840mm x 1220mm
In Jim Buchan’s A Peterhead Portrait it is said that the Peterhead ex-whaling ship Elena was the first registered oil tanker in the UK. Little else is detailed about the ship or its life at sea.

Campbell researched several of the Peterhead ships involved with the 19th century cryolite and petroleum oil industry. On account of the oil industry currently having such a prominent presence in Peterhead and throughout the northeast, Campbell paid tribute to the UK’s first oil tanker and its crew. The ship’s feminine name, Elena, poetically opposes the masculine image associated with the oil industry. Elena’s letters are painted in a lustrous black gloss over a matt black background. The black on black denotes the dark liquid of peteroleum oil, or ‘black gold’ as it is sometimes called. The scale of the work is such that when walking around the gallery space the light caught the painting at certain points, and only a few letters were visible at a time. There is a certain amount of invisibility associated within the immense blackness of the painting. The artist found it difficult to source historical information about the beginnings of this major industry in Peterhead.

To understand the process of how names are painted on to ships and fishing boats, Campbell visited Peterhead’s only surviving ship painting company, situated at the harbour. She discussed the production of the work with the company owner and sought advice on the paints that would be typically used. Campbell was informed that on wooden boats, ship painters apply a standard undercoat and gloss paint. Steel boats require a specialist paint. As the 19th century ex-whaling ships where built from timber, Campbell used a wooden board as the medium and followed the advice of the ship painter, using a black undercoat and a black gloss.

The work was painted in Peterhead.

Photo credit: Aberdeenshire Council
PREV / NEXT   2 / 4