Location | Paris: Meet Field School Blogger Charis Au

Meet Charis, posing on one of the many bridges crossing the Seine.

Tell us a little bit about yourself—school, background, major, reasons for taking this trip, anything else interesting you want to share.

I am Charis Au in the Bachelor of Fine Arts, Visual Arts program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and I am a third year student. Apart from going to Paris(!), I came because I saw this to be an opportunity for me to experience Europe in a fascinating way. I think my classmate and I have a different experience as to how to approach gallery spaces. Many classmates that I know well were with me while I become enamoured by the many artworks and having them around me once I processed information provided a wonderful opportunity for me to discuss and compare notes. Before meeting with the class on June 3rd, in Paris, Sam (Stephanie) and I travelled to Italy for nine days. The nine days proved to be spectacular and provided me with a history of art before coming to Paris to study Impressionism.

What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about Paris so far?

Paris proved to be an interesting city for me; she is, unarguably, a beautiful city. Apart from Vancouver, I believe this is the best city I have seen with constant life and activity around all the time. One thing I noticed was the efficiency of the metros around Paris. The metro system is effective and easily navigated. A metro station would be within three blocks of the area I was in. This system, which runs underground avoiding foot or automobile traffic, provides the ability for everybody to walk through Paris. Another thing I really like are the chairs in the Tuileries garden-- allowing all of us to move and sit together to enjoy a public space in the middle of Paris. The chairs are meant for people and there seems to be an honour system in place between everyone and the garden to not take the chairs home.

Give us some insight into your assigned art work from for the Orsay Museum. After seeing the work in person, what struck you most about it and/or how did the art work’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it?

Renoir, The Swing (1876)
There were many things that changed when I first saw the painting in person. First of all, in a formal aspect, the colour and tone of the whole piece was different from a digital copy.  The colours were actually a lot brighter; this applies to not only my painting but almost every painting I saw a digital copy of. I understand now why Impressionism is described as painting with “light”. From the research I did about this painting, as I had spoken before, Renoir played with the colours of the shadows.  The shadows were a deep purple colour and the purple defined the painting. Another thing I noticed was a strange line above the little girl’s hat; the line was not ever visible in digital copies but the strangeness of this line becomes an obvious point in the painting. In terms of content, I discovered that many things were not as it seemed. The group of people in the background were actually a wedding that seemed to be happening behind the swing. The expression of the girl, which I had spent a lot of time trying to understand her coy expression, was actually an uncomfortable glance away from the two gentlemen. From looking at the piece in person changed the entire premise as to what I base the feeling extracted from the painting. In the Orsay, the painting was placed on an “edge” of the exhibition called: Paintings of Modern Paris. The painting Floor Scrapers dominated that wall and Renoir’s own Le Moulin de la Galette overshadowed the presence of The Swing.  The class differences represented between Floor Scrapers and The Swing becomes obvious as the lower working class and the leisure time of the bourgeois is compared.

Today’s activity was also at the Orsay. What were your impressions? What will be your take away of the experience? Any memorable moments?

Today’s activity was at the Orsay Museum and I was really excited to see some of the masterpieces that I admired so much including Manet’s Olympia. After a quick debriefing, a classmate and I went along the first floor of the Orsay and we were struck by the beautiful brushstrokes of these many artists. We spent over an hour to go through three exhibitions on the first floor of the museum. My brain was completely overwhelmed and I realized for the first time that the best paintings on this earth were in this building and I occupy a space with it! After a quick lunch, all of us headed over to the gardens and sat around a fountain to sketch. The activity of a collective sketching seemed to create a spectacle and we had many people came up to us to either take a picture of us or look on as we draw. This feeling of being a type of spectacle feels surreal. 
Group of field school students sketching in the park with Nancy