George Morl: Precious Boys
Southend Museums, Southend-on-Sea, UK
14 July - 08 September 2018

Solo show at Southend Museum featuring new work by George Morl in conversation with Southend Museums Fine Art Collection, exploring historical representation of men and role of masculinity in South Essex


Southend Museum, Southend, UK
14 July - 08 September 2018
Free Admission
‘No girl would kiss you, But then No girls would ever kiss the earth. In the manner they hug the lips of men: You are not known to them in this, your second birth’
    Harold Monro, Youth in Arms IV: Carrion

To commemorate the centenary of the First World War at Southend Museums, emerging artist George Morl will be exploring the effect of loneliness during war and it’s contemporary effect on men today; assessing the aspirations of homes for heroes and the post war New Town visions, and revealing how post-industrialism of Basildon led to an influx in the ornamentation of masculinity, and the increasing relationship betweem performance, sexuality, and body-image with masculinity specifically in South Essex. 

Juxtaposed with works from the Southend Museum Fine Art Collection, this show investigates the representation of men within the historical canon of art, examining how these societal concepts of masculinity have manifested. Notably it will be assessing how following World War One, men's abilities to overcome loneliness in the face of death during service led to an influx of new ideas of communication as means to seek companionship, such as advertisements put up by soldiers in media for pen pals from women on the home front leading to ‘blind proposals’. Today, under digital media, this has resulted in constructed online dating platforms and constructed reality television programmes such as TOWIE and Love Island, which under post-industry renders emphasising aesthetics as purpose whilst presenting the role of the ornate muscular and stoic Essex man.

The wide range of works and subjects on display in the exhibition reflect the complexity of the social issue, presenting artworks across 400 years from the rarely seen Beecroft’s Fine Art Collection including William Etty, Bartolomew Esteban Murillo, Le Nain Brothers, Nicola Grassi, as well as Sir Joshua Reynolds. Alongside these are Morl’s portraits of Essex men chronicling underlying and secret stories of eating disorders or regarding the increased steroid usage, with digital maps of google trend screenshots around steroid advice presented next to these portaits. Painted in whey protein powders in a manor referencing the brutalist architecture of Basildon, these works portray contorted and fragmented bodies. Resting against walls on ceramic tiles and in highly decorated surfaces they emulate alternative war graves for the redundant Essex man.

Additionally, a purposefully orchestrated ‘shrine’ showcasing a copper of beggar boys and an allegory of love by Joshua Reynolds front a copper filamented painting by Morl, contrast the hetrosexual man with hidden queer dialogues, memorialising a young man who has lost their life as a result of violence through meeting up with another dating app user revealing the sometimes thrawt pursuits in affection. Other works include a floor of sculptures coated in industrial paint, whereby resting on glistening crystals they become a physical nursery rhyme depicting a wasteland landscape documenting the remembrance of men who have taken their own lives.

Highlighting Southend’s wider history in which the Palace Hotel was renamed Queen Mary’s Naval Hospital to temporarily treat soldiers, the collection has been selected by Morl in conversation with his contemporary works reflecting upon health practices and historical archives. 

Ultimately, this show has been designed as a process of investigation, disrupting the power dynamics characterised in allegories of men’s body images in museum collections, presenting the representation of men in history from nude male cherubs to academic studies, examining how societal concepts of masculinity have manifested and now have been exploited by consumerism.

‘Pubescent Plumes’, Morl’s first poetry collection exploring the maturation of youth in the Essex landscape under the plethoration of digital media, hidden queer intimacies, and the relation between masculinity and body-images is to be published alongside the exhibition.

Selected Archive Images

Artist Works & Museum works
© George Morl & Southend Museums 2018