Exhibition Review – Rentrayage by Michelle Englefield

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Thursday evening saw the opening of Coventry artist Michelle Englefield’s solo show “Rentrayage” at Artspace Arcadia Gallery, following her year-long residency at Coventry Artspace. Michelle spent her studio time working towards this final exhibition, which comprised of a series of installations providing an autobiographical reflection of her own personal experiences of trauma.

In her artist statement, Michelle bravely shared her shocking story, of a string of harrowing events, which she has encountered throughout her life, which brought her to where she is today.

Michelle discovered refuge through creativity. Her art has allowed her to find a voice, which had been silenced for so long. She wants her work to give strength to others in the same way in which it has empowered her.

Rentrayage features a series of installations which filled the space in a manner which gave the viewer no option but to engage with each piece – each work becoming an obstacle in their path. The symbolism behind Michelle’s use of material and medium sensitively reflect the vulnerability of one who has experienced trauma, followed by steady growth and repair.

Layers of semi-transparent materials were overlapped – materials such as greaseproof paper, and dust sheets – typically used as forms of protection. Each object interlaced with twine, thread and wool; materials traditionally used to bind, repair and mend.

Each installation was suspended from the ceiling and featured strings of red wool flowing down each piece, a metaphor for veins supplying oxygen – vital for survival. Circular shapes were repeated throughout each installation, a symbol of family, marriage and the womb, whilst other areas had been torn and then stitched back together.

Each delicate installation gave a feel of fragility, so as a viewer you experience a sense of anxiety when passing through the space – fearful of causing damage to the work.

The ambient lighting in the room added atmosphere to the installations, as light created differing effects when shining through the overlapping opaque structures, casting both striking and delicate shadows around the room.

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Michelle has been incredibly strong to open up and share her story of trauma followed by personal growth and repair. This show reveals how Michelle’s artistic practice has ignited an admirable strength and resilience within her. This is incredibly moving to experience when viewing Rentrayage.

The exhibition will run until the 6th September 10am – 1:30pm (closed Sundays and Mondays). On Thursday 30th  5:30-7:30pm at Artspace Artcadia Gallery, she will be hosting a panel discussion surrounding the topics of art, therapy and value.

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