At this point, I began to recognize the difference between imagery and physicality, that everything had both an imagery and a physicality, and furthermore that for me, the moment a painting took on any kind of image, the minute I could recognize it as having any relationship to nature, of any kind, to me the painting went flat. Imagery constituted representation, 're-presentation', whereas I was after a first order of presence.
Phrased simply, the moment a painting read as an image of something (a swan, a cloud, a cow jumping over the moon), it no longer presented itself purely as an energy field in its own right. It behaves like a psychologist's ink blot in a Rorschach test, summoning all manner of projected associations. And this Rorschach effect knocks down the physicality of its presence.
"Look," he said to me one day, "it's really quite simple. Pursuing the questions which art provokes is a long-term activity that necessarily needs to be free of short-term measures and rewards. In order to maintain a natural balance and continuously develop the ability to make reasoned observations and decisions, it is necessary that you take very good care of yourself, since you are the crux of it all. I'm always very kind to myself. I indulge myself in lots of ways. I give myself lots of free time. I allow myself lots of room for mistakes and contradictions. And I spend a lot of time entertaining my personal fantasies and playing the games I enjoy. I don't let money questions get to me. It's just a matter of good health."
Irwins motto could be, modest needs lavishly met.
When Irwin initially joined Ferus—the reason he left Landau in the first place—he was animated principally by ambition. He was fiercely competitive man: he wanted to be the best goddamn abstract expressionist on the block.
Something happened, though, over the next several years. He got hooked on what he was doing: curiosity came to supersede ambition as his principle motivation. It has stayed that way ever since.