A simplicity of form is the essence of ‘Ways of Seeing’, Paul Schneider’s solo show at Turf Projects in East Croydon. Screen Beans, the now extinct graphics of the 90s Microsoft Office populate the gallery space of Turf Projects in banner form over and over again and at varying heights creating an immersive virtual experience. The figure of the Screen Bean is a humanoid but genderless figure endlessly scratching its head in confusion or in wonder with a question mark hovering above. Schneider’s work explores familiar symbols from our virtual past and brings them into IRL through various forms and shapes. The gallery is now reminiscent of a print shop advertising its wares ad infinitum, where the graphic and the sign become a vocabulary and a subject matter.
Turf Projects is the first and only project space in East Croydon, located on a small side road off the high street in between a nursery school and clothing outlets. Its peripheral location contributes to the way the work is experienced and by whom. The space is divided in two with a workspace at the entrance where the events programme takes place, an integral part of the project space that aims to work directly with the community in which it is situated. Their events encompass a wide range of topics from artist crits to family focused workshops, reflecting the importance of building relationships within its context as opposed to appealing purely to an art world audience.
The work of Schneider is a natural choice for the gallery in that its formalist simplicity provides an inroad into a wider philosophical discussion. The puzzled figures of the Screen Beans are placed around the gallery space emulating the way the non-art world gallery goer might search for meaning through the codified language of contemporary art. These figures, however, are immediately accessible as they refer to the early days of the computer as well as being nostalgic in their aesthetic. The reference to cave painting in the press release is immediately visible in the work – a reduction
The perplexed Screen Bean is repeated over and over hanging at different heights from metal hooks that force you to navigate your way through the different levels, creating a specific flow through the space. In the centre of the room the Screen Bean is transformed into another dimension, from the 2D banners to a 3D functional sculptural object. The Screen Bean becomes a table-like structure with the figure’s torso as the table top and its limbs as seats encouraging the viewer to sit and join the Screen Bean in contemplation. Above the figure’s head, instead of a question mark, there are four recognisable symbols in primary colours pasted in vinyl on to the floor. These four symbols act as clues to the subject matter of constant contemplation.
At the front right of the gallery close to the vitrine there is a different Screen Bean, upside down but instead of scratching its head in confusion, its hand is raised reflecting a moment of clarity. Hanging above the figure’s head is a large cartoon-esque light bulb, further amplifying this eureka moment. The fact that this Screen Bean is upside down, however, forces you to question whether it provides any real resolution or conclusion. The Screen Beans move around the gallery as if trying out different positions, looking in different directions, only to the end up needing to turn things around completely. The irony of life is not lost here. Often, there is no answer but only more questions that might lead us in a totally different direction.