George Morl

Intimacy In An Age of Physical Absence 2020

Intimacy In An Age of Physical Absence 2020 


Acrylic, body enhancing products, flavourings, fabric, polyvinyl, ink, hair, and collage on canvas

172 x 116 cm

︎ Summary

Recent explorations have been made into the limitations and possibilities of human connection under modernising technology, and how perceptions of us inform our engagements with environments and interfaces; such as paintings which assess interactions across apps and spaces communicating perception of touch, and emphasising the experience of living in a body rather than observing one.

Intimacy In An Age of Physical Absence 2020 (2020) is a painting that explores the experience of isolation during the covid-19 pandemic for queer and disabled bodies. Unlike universal mutual loneliness that arose during the changing digital landscape of society, this work offers an insight into not something new, but rather an expose of the intensity of isolation and anxieties for minorities which was prevalent before the pandemic.

Like being amongst all the fears and anxieties of the pandemic on the outside world, is this internal struggle for intimacy and closeness. The modes in which queer individuals or disabled relied upon for intimacy or support for visibility leading to physical connection, have changed and depleted during lockdown.

Through this Morl observed the immediacy of queer online mobile dating apps, witnessing how the use and frequency of communication increased, exchanging message with others, sensing an outpouring of this need for physical connection beyond both the remits of national restrictions and the limitations of the virtual world. This emotional intensity could be evidenced and quantified by data and numbers through the use of GPS tracking, detecting users of whom were within extreme close proximity. As a result, the prevalence and plethoration of the torso projected out to a digital landscape only amplifies the need for someone to seek touch and intimacy as a means to confront and alleviate anxiety.

This sense of touch has a strong political and societal attitude and dialogue around an exploration of which bodies warrant or are permitted touch, and this internal fear around touch is something profound within queer history. The queer visual landscape, both in politics and powers of space, which intersections of queer people have access to private space, or the representation of queer bodies, and what has been deemed desirable, has long been associated and informed by the AIDS crisis since 1980’s. From vulnerable tactile photographic installed works of Wolfgang Tillmans such as ‘Forever Fortresses’ (1997) a portrait of a terminally ill person’s arms and hands connecting or ‘17 Years Supply’ (2014) about a patients medication, the landscape in which these instances occur may have led to a focus on queer people to see body images as a coded language often with many connotations.

Under historical persecution queer people have had to curate dedicated spaces for commune often assumed by many to be a place of purpose, where over time these have inevitably led to the exclusion of intersectional minorities, with the power dynamics and barriers exisiting within physical and virtual spaces, where harassment is prevalent, or where the power of desirability is often limited to an idealised or objectified body, or where the accessibility and the immediacy of digital spaces and access to private spaces may not allow for those with disabilities. Intimacy and touch in effect is compounded, regulated, and reduced to imagined social spheres in the painting, where multiple figures are depicted as a potential allegory or memorium of the present.

In principle Morl’s figures often orientate fractured, fluid, morphed, and even sometimes are manipulated prior using softwares and machines informed by photographs. Rejecting the historical academic figure, Morl’s figures convey the neurodivergent sensory processing experience of bodies, emphasising bodily structure as a possible moving network both visually and in touch, as a series of pressure points, elevated and interchangeable. They offer the audience the primary realms of ‘perception’ often invisible to many yet disregarded and erased by the visual object in history as well as rejecting a body being read and coded.

The material quality of the painted figure, composed in body enhancing products such as protein powders and flavourings offer a perspective within the personal journey within which individuals may adapt their body to abide or reject gender roles or body ideals within society; the polarised results around the categorisation of ‘tribes’, or where the use of clothing such as sport shorts are applied directly onto the canvas to connect the instance of gaze or desirability, with the physicality of touch. Differently these materials also offer a tender means documenting the private testament around gender identity, in order to reach a state of authenticity and transition, often documented and shared by those on blogging sites such as Tumblr or Instagram. This is about one’s own agency and consent to share it.

Featuring much iconography that connects all these themes like an oscillating networks, digital algorithms, collages around the central figure of newspaper cuttings referencing the current pandemic in media in contrast to historical art canon of renaissance images of angels and cherubs, or infants being nurtured by mothers in religious portraiture.

When paintings are collectively displayed in exhibition spaces, they are fixed to the wall touching the floor above ceramic tiles often coated in materials reflecting the sensoriums found in the visual and materialistic language and aesthetics of hospital corridors, making traversed the personal journey and associations within medical environments, and the spaces of state systems and facilities during adolescence. This merging relationship between the personal and the social sphere references the thematic quality of both Grayson Perry and Flo Brooks where social isolation is elevated through the personified realms of creative imagination and social iconography.

︎ Assosiated Awards

Jerwood Newlyn Residency, 2020-2022
Firstsite Award, 2020

︎ Assosiated Press

George Morl, Communal Cherub A Capellas, Gay Times, 2020
George Morl, National Autistic Society, 2020