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Sunday, 2 October 2016

News from Nowhere

Performance ; Jeffrey Dennis

A painting by Jeffery Dennis in a New York gallery was seen and bought by Charles Saatchi in the mid 1980s. It is a blast of yellow hues and confusion showing patterned wallpaper, a plug socket and small 'borrower' like people enacting a strange ritual at the base. In 2000 the painting came to Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and has been regularly on display causing curiosity and admiration from many. On Thursday Jeffery gave a talk to Friends and the title of the painting became clear. The small pictorial insets refer to scenes in his studio while the man in a headstand is a younger Jeffrey Dennis showing off saying 'look what I can do' while his partner looks on in bewilderment. The artist acts up and demands attention by a 'Performance' which is the title of the painting. Jeffrey is concerned with the small aspects of life and living and how it can appear to make little impact on the world while appearing absurd to an onlooker. 

William Morris design

These early paintings use William Morris wallpaper and textiles as a starting point and while not disguised the patterns are not immediately clear as Morris designs and are more reminiscent of the hazy images that occur when staring vacantly into space. Now William Morris is being acknowledged by many contemporary artists but it was Jeffrey Dennis who saw his importance way back in the early 1980s. The Morris novel 'News from Nowhere' provides the perfect title for a later Jeffrey Dennis work. 

News from Nowhere ; Jeffrey Dennis

'News From Nowhere' shows the introduction of the pipe or post like shape that appears regularly and is used as a interlocking device showing how all things appear connected. 
In his photographic archive, which is used as a visual reference for the paintings, we see Jeffrey posing on a plinth or ladder in the studio, urban scenes of roadworks and shop signs or of himself painting in the studio or doing household chores. The artist is aware of the futility of his action on the world where everything we do is merely a performance. 

Exposed pipes during roadworks from Jeffrey Dennis photo archive

It was while washing up that Jeffrey saw the potential of using the shapes created in the sink to create another device he calls 'bubblescape' for joining shapes and content within a painting.

Bubblescape paintings ; Jeffrey Dennis

On leaving the Art Gallery Jeffrey looked up to the ceiling and was amused by the bubblescape on the ceiling, take a look next time you are in the gallery. Another great talk and many thanks to Jeffrey for a very entertaining evening.

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