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Review: Joseph Cotgrave – BTM

Joseph Cotgrave – BTM
The Trophy Room, 16-26 September 2016

Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith

It was around a year ago when I first met Joe Cotgrave, a recent graduate starting out on his MA at LJMU. We sat down for a coffee and he told me all about where he thought his work might be heading. It’s rare to see a prediction come so accurately true.

In December last year, he said of his own work: “I’ve been dealing with site in quite a problematic way, through colour and material and composition […] but that’s been put on a back burner since I started dealing with work about HIV, which has a much more specific focus on cultural issues within the LGBT community […] I guess I’m taking on quite a challenging role to focus on some of this stuff, and allowing people to have a wider dialogue beyond ‘how is the work made?’”

And what’s most fascinating is that he’s managing to do both those things now. And has become one of the most prominent artists in Liverpool to be focusing on LGBT culture.

This exhibition is the artist’s first solo exhibition, following a period as a trainee with Liverpool Biennial. His first show takes a global platform, Grindr, and tells what seems to be an almost personal account. The app uses abbreviations to define gay male sexual roles, an oddity the artist focuses on in this show, trying to represent those roles, and the wider online culture behind gay online dating.

Last December, talking about the direction his work was heading in, focusing on the LGBT community he seemed to think that meant forgetting about dealing with site, material or composition. This exhibition proves the opposite. His work has gone from eye catching explorations of space in 2015, to playful LGBT focused installations through 2016, to work that puts his focused ideas into well considered spaces. This is an exhibition of an artist with confidence in his own ideas.

His show at The Trophy Room ends this evening, with an In Conversation session between himself, Mels Evers, Assistant Curator at Liverpool Biennial, and Dr Michael Birchall, Curator of Public Practice at Tate Liverpool and Senior Lecturer in Exhibition Studies at LJMU. The event aims to talk around the topic of Queer Arts, but within the context of Cotgrave’s first solo exhibition.