torn paper collage on board
London, Redfern Gallery/JHW Fine Art, Gwyther Irwin: Selected Works 1957-1970, 11th April - 5th May 2006, cat. no.7.
'Mr Irwin cannot put two pieces of torn paper side by side without creating an atmosphere of poetic tenderness...'
John Russell, Sunday Times, 15th September 1963.
Although trained as a painter, by 1957 Irwin had abandoned painting in favour of collage and his distinctive and dynamic work was receiving plaudits from critics at virtually every showing. Using torn advertising posters, often stripped from walls by Irwin and his wife at night, the collages rarely included any imagery or letters, rather using the random qualities of exposure to the elements and fading as his palette. Sometimes working in dense layers, as here, or in a more spare and measured manner, as in Room at the Top (The Robert Devereux Collection of Post War British Art, Sale 2, lot 147), 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.
Throughout the early 1960s he expanded his repertoire, experimenting with a variety of other 'junk' materials, including string, corrugated cardboard and wood shavings, which perhaps signalled the move toward three dimensional constructions that occupied much of the remainder of the decade. 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.
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