Jeffrey Dennis

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by William Feaver The Observer 27th March 1994

The ramifications of the new paintings by Jeffrey Dennis (Anderson O'Day, Portobello Road W11 to 16 April) are distracting. He gets there eventually, and then wonders why, and his form of narrative is strung out like the tube map and subject, as the London Underground intercom so often says, to delays.
Each picture is liable to trail over more than one piece of hardboard. Each is composed of a number of vignette images; snapshots, in effect, couched in dense and bewildering tracts of hand-painted foam. Each blink of everyday scene is lucky to survive, floating or embedded in the scum.
Dennis creates confusion in his paintings, partly by laying on so much bubble mixture and partly by disconnecting the links from one zone to another. Crudely painted pipes conduits, tunnels, cabling ducts break the surface, trompe l'oeil fashion, flushing images into the open.
It seems he paints whatever comes to mind. A break-in, through an upstairs window, lettuce leaves, Brighton Pavilion, Dennis the Menace, the streets of Leytonstone, are carefully depicted, as though being taken down and used in evidence.
A preoccupation, understandably for a Londoner, is the Central Line. Stations, carriages, people waiting, are lingered over. Impatience gets you nowhere. Dennis represents journeying as moves on a board game or, when the going gets worse, as a process of being treated like effluent.
The paintings thrive on snags. Gobs of raw paint disturb the froth. Blemishes are overcome, faults identifies. Glimpses of the better life, in the back garden, may be spoilt by the intrusive Flymo, but every time he gets a hold on reality the is graphic relief. Peeking through the suds, seeing visions in the washing machine porthole, he presses on, taking what comes. The infrastructure may be clapped out, but painting still has its uses along the line. Whew!