Location | Paris: Meet Field School Blogger Kenny Chui

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

Hi, I am Kenny Chui. I have just graduated from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in May, 2012. There's no better way to finish my degree than to go to Paris, the city with such a rich art history. I have seen the famous paintings through textbooks or online, but never in person. In the first few years in Kwantlen, painting was my favourite medium. However, due to various reasons, I started focusing more on making digital art rather than painting in the past two years. Even though I mainly do digital art, I have always wanted to paint again. There is something about painting that makes it so unique, whether it is the story behind the painting, the scale, the colors, or the applicant of paint. It amazes me how “random” strokes on a canvas can become recognizable objects in a painting. That is one of the main reasons why I wanted to go; I wanted to study the brushstrokes on these famous paintings that I have studied.

Having fun at the Palais De Tokyo inside an art installation.
From left to right: Rosaura, Charis, Wei, Andres, Amanda, and of course Kenny.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about Paris so far?

There is an elementary school across of our hotel; therefore, there are always kids and teenagers  playing on the road between the two buildings. Every morning, one of the first things I do is to open the window and listen to the kids play. I don't understand French, but it is the sound of joy that makes me enjoy it so much. Back in Canada, even though I live near an elementary school, I don't see or hear little kids play out in public on a daily basis like this. Although the kids and teenagers are quite loud, as I can still hear them with my window closed, the sounds of the ball bouncing, kids running, screaming and laughing make this place so much warmer to live in. Another thing I noticed is that the people here do not rely on mobile devices as much as the people in Vancouver. In Vancouver, everyone is constantly checking their cellphones or tablets, whether they are on the train, at a restaurant, waiting in line, etc. They constantly need to be distracted or entertained. However, I notice that people here in Paris do not rely on their mobile devices as much. I am pleasantly surprised to see that the people here are not constantly staring at a digital screen, or typing on a mobile device.
Children playing outside Field School hotel in Paris, a truly delightful sound.
Give us some insight into your assigned art work from the Muse d’ Orsay. 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?

Georges Seurat, The Circus 
When I finally saw Georges Seurat's The Circus in person, my first reaction was that the painting is a lot larger than I imagined. What really surprised me was the position of the painting in the room and how much attention it gets. The painting is located in one of the smaller rooms, but it was definitely the center of attention. It is the first painting the viewer sees when entering the room. The paintings next to it are all figureless and a lot smaller. Without a doubt, the Orsay wanted the Circus to be the main attraction of that room. Circus was done in pointillism, Seurat used oval-like strokes to create this painting. When I entered the room and approached this painting, I did not notice the strokes at first; but as I walk closer to it, it felt as if the painting was breaking apart into little strokes right in front of my eyes. I knew that Seurat painted the blue frame on the painting, but I did not know that he used pointillism on the frame as well. It isn't just one shade of blue as I originally thought, it is actually darker near the center and lighter towards the edge. I was fascinated at the color choice made for the strokes. Seurat did not use black paint at all in the Circus. He used a combination of colors to produce the illusion of the color black. As for the white areas, Seurat actually dotted white strokes on the white canvas, even though they are nearly impossible to notice. Finally, I was surprised that the Orsay put the sketch of Circus in the same room with the actual work as well. I was able to learn more about the Circus from studying the sketch. Seurat wanted to paint the blue frame since the beginning. I was able to tell what was important to Seurat, his sketch focuses more on the foreground. He only placed minimal amount of the audience in the background just to figure out the composition; otherwise, he left the background quite empty. The only thing I question about this work is the extra golden frame that was used. I felt that the extra frame is not necessary. Seurat already added the blue frame on Circus, which is probably a commentary on the idea of painting already, an extra frame contradicts it in my opinion.
Today’s activity was at the Galeries Lafayette. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experience?  What, if any are the memorable moments for you?

Galeries Lafayette is one of the oldest department stores of Paris
and the students were asked to think about how the French
invented the modern day shopping experience.
Today, we went to the Galeries Lafayette. It is a seven stories tall department store and each floor is dedicated to one or two specific category. All the different brands are located on the same floor, if I want a specific kind of item, I don't need to walk in and out of different shops to find it. Also, there are restaurants, cafes and salon inside the building. The luxury of a department store is that you can do and get everything you want yet you do not need to step out of it. The first few floors were all selling female products, such as perfumes, bags, and other female clothes. The Galeries Lafayette is definitely targeting female shoppers. One of the first things I noticed about the shoppers was that there are a lot more tourists in Galeries Lafayette. Interestingly, the shoppers here do a lot more “eyeing” and less touching. They walk around the items and just look at them, they do not really interact with the items as much as I thought. It seems to me that people are supposed to behave a certain way inside the department store. The department store is very well organized. The use of vibrant colors and well lit products attracts attention immediately. Also with the large-scale advertisements on the walls and columns, everything is so glamourous. However, I did not really enjoy my time there at Galeries Lafayette. One of the reasons is that most of the products are made for females. The other reason for that is because I grew up in Hong Kong, where department stores are popular there too. When I was in Galeries Lafayette, I felt like I have been in it many times before. It just did not excite me as much as the little vintage or second hand shops that we went to afterwards. My classmates and I were digging through stuff looking for little treasures that did not necessarily have to be a specific brand. We were a lot happier with our findings at the little shops than at the department store.
Students enjoyed shopping the many vintage shops dotting the city far more than the large department stores.