Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
Hello there! My name is Kaila, I’m 20 years old and I’m in my second year of university at Kwantlen Polytechnic University right now. My field of study is psychology, and I was working towards completing my bachelor’s degree with this major, though throughout the Paris/Documenta field school, I am discovering new passions and interests and I feel as though this may change when I return back home. As the city of Paris is very inspirational, it is bringing forth more of a basis to create and expand my artwork/artistic style. As far as my artistic style/abilities – I mostly work with charcoal and pastels (drawing), though I am trying to expand my work by beginning to paint and move into mixed media art pieces.
The reason I chose to embark on this crazy journey across the world is because it is truly once in a lifetime. I mean, yes, it is definitely possible to travel to Europe on other occasions, though having the opportunity to travel and experience Paris and Kassel with a group of like-minded, and forward-thinking artists is truly something special and unique. Also, I have been able to really focus on and take in the culture and art, due to the outings and group activities that we have been doing. I am learning so much more than I could ever learn from a textbook while being on this field school, and it is absolutely amazing. This trip is opening up my perspective and allowing me to innovate my ideas and understandings of the world in which we live. I would recommend studying abroad to anyone who is looking to discover themselves in a new manner, or experience a new way of living and understanding a new culture.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about Paris (or Kassel) so far?
Everything from the food, the lights, the beautiful architecture, and monuments of the city to the graffiti on the sidewalks and walls of the streets and the style of the city goers has exceeded my expectation of what Paris was going to be. The city almost seems as though it is a movie set, in the sense that is so beautifully breathtaking. It is unreal. Words cannot do this city justice.
I love the city at night. It is quite alluring and seductive. The city never sleeps, although it is peaceful and contains an element of tranquility, it is still breathing with life at all hours. Walking around and just observing/taking in different aspects of the districts and groups of people around the city has easily become one of my new favourite pastimes.
Some of the people here are not the friendliest (which I half expected), though it just adds to the experience of the city and creates some pretty hilarious memories. I am shocked at how little I have been required to speak French while being here to get around. Most people speak fluent English, and are willing to accommodate the language, which is very nice and convenient for the members of our trip. At the same time though, I do speak French and was hoping to exercise my knowledge of the language a little more (in a more authentic environment).
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Orsay Museum. After seeing the work in person in Paris (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
My assigned artwork is Van Gogh’s Dance Hall in Arles (1888), which is displayed in the Orsay Museum among other Van Gogh paintings and similar works of post-impressionist art. The painting is captivating in person. The colours, bright and vivid, draw you in to take a closer look, even from all the way across the gallery, which in result allows your eyes to wander around the canvas and absorb and notice all the small and subtle details of the work. The bright distinct shade of blue used in various points in the image is what initially stood out to me when I first saw the painting in person, as when I was studying the painting through digital images the blue was almost unnoticeable. Everything from the lighting, the display and the beautifully intricate frame used to hang the painting to the scale and details of the image struck me. All of these elements together really helped accentuate the image and create a pleasurable aesthetic and viewing experience for the work.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to this assigned work in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
The way I interpreted the Van Gogh’s piece when I studied it back in B.C., was that it was telling a story about the reality of social conventions, gatherings, and expectations. It was exposing the truth about how even though you may appear satisfied, or as though you fit in with society (and other people generally), you may not. And you may feel the loneliness and most misunderstood, or vulnerable, in room full of people that are seemingly just like you. So, from this, I created a piece that embodied these ideas and themes, while still embracing the colour palette of the image (rich yellows and oranges, contrasted with black and grey), and its general form (for example, using all the condensed faces). I tried to play with the technique of distorting the image with paint (the various shapes crossing out the faces), to represent the loss of identity/faceless crowd/lack of individuality that occurs within the cynical reality of social gathering. This was my favourite process in creating the work. I also tried to apply the paint to the canvas in a very loose and freeing manner, to connect with the methods in which Van Gogh produced his painting.
Now that I have seen the original image up close and in person, I think that I would definitely play with brighter and more vivid colours. The bright shade of blue was quite prominent and a defining feature of the painting in person, so I would likely try to incorporate this into my piece if I were to revise anything. I think I would also maybe try to accentuate just one single face in the crowd, as I noticed that a few faces stood out in Van Gogh’s painting, when I was observing it in real life.
Today’s activity was located at the Chateau de Versailles. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
Versailles was absolutely stunning. It was almost overwhelmingly accented and decorated. It did not appear real, as if it was another movie set. Versailles was beautiful, enchanting, and intricate, though it was also quite grotesque. It was huge, and grand, display of wealth, power, and dominance over the city (during its time anyway), and I couldn’t help thinking about how during a time of such poverty and suffering of the poor, this insanely spectacular building was built. There were parts of Versailles that are made of solid gold. One small piece of one the fountains could have probably fed the whole city during the times of starvation. As I was walking around the palace, and through the gardens, I felt as though I was walking through an imaginary plastic land, as everything was perfect. Too perfect. Every aspect was planned and exactly where it was supposed to be. During my visit there, I felt the beauty and majesty of it, though I also felt the oppression and grossly vast display of power.