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Collection in focus: 'Symptomology of a Basildon Boy, 2018' by George Morl

"Symptomology of a Basildon Boy, 2018, explores the relationship between post-industrialism, queerness, and the performative nature of masculinity portrayed via social media. Through observing rituals and performances online for body-enhancing undertaken by men from fasting, water loss, steroids, exercise videos, filters, the figure is painted in body enhancing supplements as well as flavourings. Each pigment section is designed to separate and crack like stained glass windows or deterioration of historical paintings, revealing the wounded psychology of the individual beneath, and the elementary fragments structurally referencing the brutalist architecture found within Essex, notably Basildon.

These internal wounds and complicated search by some for belonging and validation is complicated in queer history. Specifically for disabled LGBTQ+ people, we can sometimes see ourselves as outsiders within an already marginalised community. Construction or performance of ourselves from others can be a means of escapism or protection. In the same way queer people may have had to disguise or perform versions of themselves to avoid or minimise prejudice, autistics may ‘mask’, adjusting our behaviour, mimicking or staging communication, attempting to align with norms in social relations to fit in. Rather than disguise, for me collectively persona of online presence and artwork oscillate as a form of silent protest documenting perspectives in sociability or immobility from spinal, physical, mental, and neuro conditions.

This extends to how I perceive bodies, informed by being a neurodivergent, where sensory processing differences means I have to approach environments and physical intimacy differently. As often portrayed in my figures, I perceive the body as a series of increased pressure or pain points, as accentuated bones and muscles. I see bodies as moving networks. They are often gender fluid, fragmented and morphed. Under the psychiatric and neuroscience principle of ‘Neologism’ I use images and words that are meaningful only to me independent of common understanding, prioritising individual experience over others assumptions. And like art history which favours proportion and ratio in representation as quality and idealisation through the ‘golden ratio’ in Ancient Greek sculptures, this aligns with abled-bodied ideals. My work rejects these notions where those with physical disabilities, Neurodivergence, deaf, blind, or those with sensory processing, our intensified or lessened senses means our experience of our bodies and of environments are different. Our reality often exists through differing perceptions which informs our experience. It is only through listening to our perceptions that others learn and validate our experiences. To me queerness doesn’t always necessarily relate to sexuality, but also a term in relation to rejecting societal norms in all aspects, including what’s considered to be valued in culture.

Referencing both folklore art and craftwork witnessed at the ‘British Folk Art’ exhibition at Tate Britain and ‘Radical Craft’ at Southend Museums; examples produced by soldiers in prisons or hospitals, from decoupage involving buttons and collage, to quiltwork made from uniform scraps. The surface of my paintings are decorated with collages of boxing iconography, dolls, portraits of children throughout art history, as well as pressed flowers and military coins referencing the act of women offering flowers to wounded soldiers over the balconies in Queen Mary's Hospital in Southend in WW1 which became a convalescent home. Together, these question the gender roles and restricting ways these place upon emotional vulnerability. In the same way my practice spawned from engagements with art and therapeutic practices in medical settings during youth, to psychotherapy in adolescence, often my works examines the remits between trauma and recovery, art and science, where the art object becomes the channel. Ultimately a network of mutual understanding."

George Morl


Symptomology of a Basildon Boy by George Morl was featured in the 2018 exhibition 'George Morl: Precious Boys' at the Beecroft Art Gallery and is part of

Southend Museums art collection

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