58 x 54 in
'Irwin is gifted with a delicacy and gentle sensitivity and seems unable to make an ugly object.'
Alan Bowness, XXXII Venice Biennale catalogue, 'Hilton, Irwin, Tilson, Meadows, 1964'
Although trained as a painter, by 1957 Irwin had abandoned paints in favour of collage, with his distinctive style receiving plaudits from critics at virtually every showing. Using torn advertising posters, often stripped from walls by Irwin and his wife under cover of darkness, these collages rarely included any imagery or letters, rather using the natural qualities of exposure to the elements and fading to build features. Sometimes working in dense layers, as here, or in a more spare and measured manner, Irwin's work deeply impressed his peers and the range of critical reviews of his work by figures as influential as Robert Melville, Denys Sutton, Alan Bowness, Mervyn Levy and John Russell gives a very strong indication of why his work was so sought after. Teaching at Brighton College of Art from 1969-1984 greatly curtailed his own work, and it was not until after his retirement that his output significantly increased, sadly cut short by Alzheimer’s.
'I am engaged in a sort of gestural slow-motion, a 'stopping-down', right down, of a painterly process that normally functions at a bodily speed somewhere between the arm actions of dog patting and benediction. I watch with wonder and excitement as the colours and marks, falling from my hand as if propelled by a source of guidance other than myself, slowly spread out across the surface.' (Irwin, in a 1961 interview)