George Morl ‘ESSEX @WAY from keyboard?’ – Focal Point Gallery

George Morl ‘ESSEX @WAY from keyboard?’ – Focal Point Gallery

16th July to 23rd October 2022 Launch Saturday 23rd July

Focal Point Gallery is pleased to present a new temporary public artwork by Essex-based artist George Morl with Elm Class of Nancealverne School in Penzance, consisting of two new site-specific works for the annual railway bridge commission on Southend High Street.

Reflecting on 100 years of radio broadcasting in the county and Southend becoming a ‘Gigabit City’, ‘ESSEX @WAY from keyboard?’ is a digital collage that illustrates the importance of communication devices and online communities for disabled and neurodivergent people. The artwork is configured in the style of a keyboard adapted for those with learning disabilities and for computer gaming. It is is made up of several images, including computer graphics, artworks by students, and a series of portraits of the artist as a digital avatar directed by the students reflecting on comic and sci-fi characters. Referencing the journey and visual motifs in the postcard works of artist Madge Gill (1882-1961), gaming culture and diversification of communication technologies, the commission considers how virtual worlds can be viewed as an alternative form of migration. This is in stark contrast to the artists’ research into the forcible movement of disabled people in early 1900’s in South Essex, with individuals now utilising online spaces for autonomy against the colonial legacies of networks.

Taken from the term ‘away from keyboard (AFK)’, which refers to a computer user who has temporarily left interaction with the virtual world, the commission highlights the contemporary alternative pilgrimage of uploading oneself online as a disabled and queer person to connect through networks that have evolved from Essex. From the discovery and development of electricity, radio and radar, fibre optic cables, these technologies have facilitated several key milestones that have created alternative possibilities for communication and connection, particularly for communities facing societal barriers. Through the parallels of technological innovation such as Marconi’s experiments and the first wireless radio transmissions in Essex and Cornwall where the students live, this project reflects on the the possibilities and complexities of international networks.

The commission will coincide with the daily screening of a new video work, ‘Profiles of Essex’, on Big Screen Southend. This emerges from research gathered by Morl as part of ‘New Histories’, a pilot project with East Contemporary Visual Art Network (ECVAN) and funded by Arts Council England to explore new regional histories from diverse communities across the East of England. Workshop images from this artwork were made as part of a project with students from Elm Class, Nancealverne School since 2021 through the Jerwood Newlyn Residency with Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange in Cornwall. Following the public display in Southend, the artwork will tour down to Nancealverne School, Penzance in October 2022..

Artwork: George Morl with Elm Class, Nancealverne School, Penzance. Artwork Concept and Photographic Avatars: George Morl Photographer: Lily Morl

Contemporary Elders – George Morl: ‘Essex @way From Keyboard?’ Talk and Tour | Sat 23 Jul 2022. 10.30am to 12.30pm

To coincide with Focal Point Gallery’s annual Railway Bridge commission, George Morl will give a talk and lead a guided tour within Southend exploring the themes within their work ‘ESSEX @way from keyboard?’. To celebrate 100 years of radio broadcasting in the county and Southend becoming a ‘Gigabit City’, Morl’s work is a digital network collage that illustrates the importance of communication devices, online communities, and representation for disabled and neurodivergent people.

The session will start at Focal Point Gallery with the artist and participants exploring and handling radio Marconi devices, electrical circuits, and Madge Gill artworks. This will be followed by observing Morl’s first paintings at Beecroft Art Gallery, and the early photographic works reflecting on Saxon burial chambers and parallels of blogging sites at Central Museum. The tour will end at the Railway Bridge on the High Street unlocking the stories of the network scroll from a disabled perspective and journey for social connection.

The session will be focused on the social side, with no prior art experience or understanding of art needed. Just a willingness to get involved! This group is for anyone aged over 60.

About the Artist

George Morl is an artist and facilitator based in Basildon. Currently they are undertaking the Jerwood Newlyn Residency (2021-22) at Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange in Penzance. Morl’s multidisciplinary practice comprises of paintings, sculptures, photography, video, and sound, exploring human connection under modern technology, ‘crip theory’, language barriers, queer ecology, gender, often through affecting integrative and collaborative approaches between organisations, collections, and communities. Morl received their BFA from University for the Creative Arts in 2016 and MFA in 2018. Morl also undertook their foundation at South Essex College, Southend. Their work has been shown at Tate Exchange, London (2019), Southend Museums (2018), UCA, Canterbury (2016), Turner Contemporary, Margate (2016). Recipient of Firstsite Award, Colchester (2020), TOW Residency (2020) and Darren Henley Scholarship (2016- 2018). In 2020 George was a Peer to Peer UK/HK nominee. Morl has work in public and private collections..

About Focal Point Gallery

Focal Point Gallery supports the production and presentation of new and recent contemporary art that challenges us to think and feel differently about locality, our sense of self and the importance of communities. Our wide-ranging and pioneering artistic programme is relevant to local and national audiences alike, through exploring current concerns that also resonate internationally. Based in Southend-on-Sea on the Thames Estuary, FPG’s activities take place in locations across the region with our reach extended by working collaboratively with like-minded partners.

FPG is located on the ground floor of The Forum in Elmer Square, 100 metres from Southend Central Station. As south Essex’s only public funded gallery for contemporary art, FPG receives regular funding from Arts Council England and is part of Southend-on-Sea City Council.

Opening hours: Wed to Sat 11.00am to 5.00pm, Sun 11.00am to 4.00pm For further information, please contact 01702 534108 or email focalpointgallery@southend.gov.uk

Jamie Langstone
JLangstone@savs-southend.co.uk