Kyla Chung

Forty Shades of Saint John  |  Port Saint John Gallery  |  March 17 – April 28, 2023


Kyla Chung is a Saint John-based visual artist. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Ontario College of Arts and Design University, where she received the Fredrick Hagan “Passion in Paint” award at the Annual Graduation Exhibition.

Today, Kyla placed her studio for her artistic career near the City of Saint John. Since she was so fascinated by the aesthetics of the heritage city, her paintings mainly depict scenes of old buildings, streets and people, embodying her subjective moods of each moment. As a local Saint John Artist, Kyla has been participating in local art projects.

Artist Statement

The theme of this painting series, Forty Shades of Saint John, is nostalgia. I depicted it through a sense of place. When I was fifteen, I moved to Canada and started life as an immigrant with my family. Unfortunately, suffering from homesickness was not avoidable. My experience of homesickness at an early age got me to think a lot about nostalgia. I have learned that it was not the place or people I longed for but the moment that would never come back. Also, it would always be a void unable to be fulfilled. Nevertheless, the wave of emotions triggered by the nostalgic memory is still precious and intense as much as it would promptly paralyze a part of the heart. I had to express that through my work.

I’ve been painting cityscapes because I was fascinated by their aesthetics. In those paintings, audiences have found not only the beauty of the city but also their nostalgic memory. It is a form of communication I pursue with audiences through this series of paintings: my paintings become a trigger to arouse certain old times of their life. In a single picture, aroused emotions and memories were various. It resembles various shades of a single colour.

To make paintings more interactive with audiences, I used their photos posted on social media as reference images. The photos were distinctive since there were their own unique narratives and stories. I borrowed and recreated their moments in my paintings, emphasizing moods with colours. The scenes in my paintings have a sense of pause and silence. The primary art influencer of my artworks is the Artist Edward Hopper. His paintings are mainly about urban loneliness and isolation. I love the calmness, quietness, slight depression and languor of his paintings. Those elements are similar to the feelings when I am stuck in thoughts of nostalgia. Also, images in memories are rather out-focused, stalled and slacked. I found a resemblance to those scenes from Edward Hopper’s Paintings.

 From this series of paintings, I wonder if any memories would strike viewers. I hope my exhibition could be a chance for them to take a break from the present, looking back to their old days and celebrating them.

Special thanks to Julia Wright, Scott McDade, Holly McKay, Linda Jane Foster, and Colin Hugh Smith, for sharing their amazing photos for this exhibition.