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 the representation of men in history and masculinity in South Essex


Southend Museum, Southend, UK
14 July - 08 September 2018
Tuesday - Sunday 10:00-17:00
Free Admission
︎Press Release
‘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

This summer to commemorate the centenary of the First World War at Southend Museums, emerging Basildon born artist George Morl will be tackling a central concern: What is the contemporary effect of the loneliness experienced in First World War on men today, assessing and revealing how body-image and performance are entwined with masculinity.

Precious Boys is dedicated to exploring young men’s body image. Exploring and assessing the vulnerabilities of young men, Morl reveals how body image and sexuality are entwined with the masculine nature of 'performance'. 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 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 romanticised television presenting ornate muscular men contributing to the effect on men's body image and poor self-esteem.

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. Displayed alongside Morl’s portraits of men with eating disorders or who have died as a result of steroid usage, they are painted in whey protein powders in a brutalist manor referencing the architecture of Basildon, portraying contorted and fragmented bodies. Presented resting against walls on ceramic tiles their highly varnished surfaces emulate war graves of soldiers.

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, depicting and memorialising a young man who has been murdered as a result of violence through meeting up with another dating app user. Other works include a floor of sculptures coated in industrial paint, whereby resting on glistening crystals they become a physical nursery rhyme depicting a post-industrial landscape documenting the plight and remembrance of men who have taken their own life.

Highlighting Southend’s 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 artworks which reflect upon medical and health practices.

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 been exploited by consumerism, offering a platform to relent.

Selected Exhibition Images

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