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

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 man’s torso projected out to a digital landscape only amplifies the need for someone to seek touch and intimacy as a means to confront and eleviate 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, or the representation of queer bodies, what has been deemed desirable, has long been associated and informed by the HIV crisis of the 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 HIV patients medication, the landscape in which these instances occur may have led to a focus on queer people to see body image as a coded language, some with many connotations.

Under historical persection queer people have had to curate dedicated spaces for commune often assumed by many to a place of purpose, where over time these may have inevitably led to the exclusion of minorities, or having encouraged a space in which uncosciously normalises sexual assault in physical spaces, and on virtual spaces where graphic sexual harrassment or racism is prevelant, or where the power of desirability is often limited to an idealised body, or the accessiblity of the immediacy of digital spaces may not allow for those with neurodivergent or learning disabilities. Intimacy and touch in effect is compounded and regulated; and like the imagined social spheres in the painting, where multiple figures are depicted, they offer a potential allegory or memorium not of past, but present struggle.

Like the experience of autism, 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 emphasised. They offer the audience the primary realms of ‘perception’ often invisible to many yet disregarded by the visual object in history.

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 to gender roles or body ideals within society; the objectified youth, the muscular ‘hunk’, or where the use of clothing such as sport shorts are applied directly onto the canvas to connect the instance of male gaze, desirbaility, with the physicality of touch. Differently these materials also offer a tender means documenting the private testament to the dysphoria that one may experience like Morl who is genderfluid, in order to reach a state of authenticity and transition story for transgender people, often documented on blogging sites such as Tumblr or Instagram.      

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 asthetics of hospital corridors or consultant rooms, make traversed the personal transition and experience of gender identity within medical environments, and the spaces of mental health or autism provision 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 beyond the personified realms of creative imagination and social iconography.

Featuring much iconography that connects all these themes like an oscillating network, digital algorythms, 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 portaiture. Intimacy In An Age of Physical Absence 2020 suggests ultimately, who before the pandemic was afforded touch and intimacy, and who after will still be ignored?

︎ Assosiated Awards

Firstsite Award, 2020

︎ Assosiated Press

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