Location | Paris: Meet Field School Blogger Rhea Paez

Meet Rhea!

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

Rhea taking photos at Versailles
(photo courtesy: Kyubo Yun)
When I heard about the Field School trip to Paris, I leapt at the opportunity to be part of it.  Paris is one of the major arts and culture hubs in the world with a large history in connection to the arts, so I knew that it was going to be something I could take away from.  Being able to experience first-hand the history I was taught, in the space and environment that the history happened, has definitely reinforced what I learned in school, especially since it will now correlate with my physical experience of it.  Text book pictures and projection slides alike are no match for seeing the actual art pieces in their physical form.  No post cards, mugs, posters etc.. can ever replicate the phenomenal sensation of seeing a Toulouse-Lautrec, a Manet or a Courbet for the first time.  I am a fourth year Fine Arts student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University completing the fourth year of my degree, and this experience, by far, has been absolutely memorable and life changing.  For as long as I can remember I have always been a creative individual who has a thirst for making art.  I started out painting, drawing and working with ceramics, but being in post-secondary school has made me branch out to using other mediums of art such as video, installation, sculpture and print media.  At times I have been be discouraged while making art, especially in school, but what I’ve learned is that your experiences are sometimes one and the same as some of the artists you learn about, which then becomes an inspirational and catalytic element in creating new art.  

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

Rhea, Courtney, and Kyubo atop the Eiffel Tower
Aside from the art I had seen, it was the row upon row of Haussmann buildings, heavily decorated in their ornate design that made quite an impression on me.  If you were above ground, let’s say at the third floor of the Opera House, looking at the city from the balcony, you can easily drink in Paris’ stunning aesthetical experience.  The best view I have seen of Paris, as cliché as it sounds, is from the Eiffel Tower.  You can see the entirety of Paris’ layout being able to spot all of the monumental buildings.  At street level, you will notice the small boulangeries where you can order your daily baguettes, the butcheries where you order your deli meats, and patisseries where you grab a pastry treat for the day.  Paris is also littered with coffee shops that allow one to flaneur while drinking their Café au lait, or their Nissoit outside the shop.  My most favorite part about the infrastructure in Paris is their Metro layout and network systems.  It is the most efficient metro station I have ever experienced, especially having over ten lines, not including their RER commuter rail system.  At one point in the trip I had to leave my group behind because I had forgotten something important back at the hotel, so I informed everyone I would meet them at our destination, only I had never ridden the metro on my own because I had been following everyone else beforehand.  Quickly looking over the metro map I was able to hop onto a train and make my transfers with no hesitation at all, not getting lost once.  It was quite an achievement for me.  The convenient thing about their metro system is that their fourteen lines plus their RER rail cover the city of Paris, which makes for convenient travelling across the city without a vehicle.  

Give us some insight into your assigned art work from the Musee 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?

Pierre Bonnard, A Bourgeois Afternoon (1900)
I was assigned Pierre Bonnard's A Bourgeois Afternoon (1900), which I got to see at the Orsay, and after having seen it I was quite impressed by it.  It was more saturated than I had imagined and as I had mentioned earlier, text book pictures and slideshow images do not do paintings any justice.  The image was also not as flat as I had imagined it because of how saturated it turned out to be.  The cool palette choice gave it a bright but subtle illumination because of the array of colours chosen. It was also quite large in size being around seven feet wide and five feet tall.  Being so large I noticed other details that I had not expected to be there such as an extra cat or dog, and extra figures in the back ground in the garden, such as a child holding onto a large potted plant, or two other smaller children off in the distance.  They were hard to spot, but none the less, they were very much present.  Clearly they are difficult to see and in the background because they are insignificant to the overall theme of the image, yet they play a major role in contributing to the image’s narrative.  The painting is littered with symbolism towards the bourgeois attitudes of family leisure in country homes.  There is so much going on in the painting especially with what you see on the edges, such as figures entering the house in the background or figures inside of the house peering out, it is clear why I was able to miss such details.  To be honest, it is not one of my favorites by Bonnard because previously before seeing The Terrase Family I had run into a small exhibit of Bonnard’s lithography, drawings and paintings in a separate wing on the bottom floor of the Orsay. Those overwhelmed me and gave me a whole new appreciation for the artist. Perhaps the frustration of not being able to find my assigned piece because the Orsay was so large slightly tainted my view of the image and had I seen it prior to any of his other work I might have been more impressed. 

Today’s activity was located around Documenta. What were your impressions?  What will you take away of the experience?  What, if any are the memorable moments for you?

Yan Lei's Limited Art Project captured a great deal of interest at Documenta. Each day,
the artist will have 3-4 of the 360 canvases painted over for the duration of the exhibition.
At my first day of Documenta the word “overwhelmed” describes my entire experience of it.  I had first ventured into the Documenta Halle building where there were works from such artists like Gustav Metzger, Etel Adnan, Julie Mehretu and Nalini Malani.  The first one in that building that I thought was interesting was Yan Lei’s installation called Limited Art Project.  The installation was made up of over a hundred paintings, some displayed and some filed in this large storage area.  Every painting was different, and each one was a copy of an image he had found browsing through the internet.  The images are random and are of ones that had caught his attention while surfing the internet.  Every day he paints over a few canvases, eliminating them from the rest of the installation, yet it is still displayed to indicate its removal.  This piece comments on the facile entertainment and the consumption of art.  In painting over his paintings, he “slows down the audience’s consumption” giving his piece a fleeting ephemeral quality.  The interesting thing about this piece is that if I had seen this any later in the month, many of the images would have been eliminated and thus would give me a completely different perspective of the piece.
After the Documenta Halle, my friend Shelly and I decided to see all of the pieces scattered throughout the park, which we realised, at the end of the day, was quite a long and exhausting process.  Mind you I am extremely happy that I decided to see the outdoor installations that day because the next day it rained quite a bit.  Anyhow, after having spent ten hours looking at the outdoor pieces, I was only close to a third of seeing everything.  Most of the outdoor pieces were housed in these little cabins that made for a more intimate experience of each piece.  Walking through the park, Shelly and I were crossing out each piece we had seen on our map, and making up short titles for each one so as to easily remember them.  We made sure not to skip any of the pieces, but with the limited amount of time we had, we missed a handful.   From what I had seen that day at the Documenta Halle, the Orangerie and pretty much the entirety of their outdoor installations, I was thoroughly impressed.  Two days is not enough to see all of Documenta’s brilliant artists but it gave me a taste of something I’m sure to come back for in five years time.  Hopefully one day my work will show in an exhibition of that calibre, or in Documenta itself.
As Rhea describes, Documenta is as much an outdoor as an indoor experience.
(photo courtesy: Dorothy Barenscott)