Assembled: The art of Robert Klippel


Insisting on the importance of the artist’s hand in giving a work vitality, Sydney artist Robert Klippel naturally made this evident in his distinctive sculptures. There it is when you look through his abundant output: absolute liveliness and personality.

Curator Kirsty Grant had no hesitation calling the new exhibition of Klippel’s work Assembled: throughout his long, dedicated career Klippel had an intimate way of putting things together, often using pieces of scrap metal, salvaged timber and other found objects. The resulting forms are organic and mechanical all at once. While Klippel is known mainly for his sculptures, Grant has included collages and drawings that also reveal the particular way Klippel worked. “He was trying to develop a language of form, establishing almost a vocabulary of shapes and forms he could work with,” Grant says.

Robert Klippel, Nos 1037-1126, Eighty-seven small polychromed tin sculptures, 1995, polychromed tin and wire various dimensions. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Gift of Andrew Klippel 2002. © Andrew Klippel. Courtesy of The Robert Klippel Estate, represented by Annette Larkin Fine Art, Sydney and Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich / Copyright Agency, 2019.

Descriptions of Klippel as an artist with incredible energy and drive are revealed in his domestic arrangements. When he moved into a new harbour-view house in Sydney with his family in the late 1960s, his dedication was such that his work and collections overran the place – the rest of the family eventually moved to another house. Klippel would work on many pieces at the same time, moving between them and adding or subtracting along the way; then he would deliberate for a while, working on another set of works, before returning to the first group for refinement.

“He would allow chance to play its part as well, finding parts kicking around in the studio to work with,” Grant says. “He is so interesting because he was so strongly abstract even though he was using materials we can recognise – keys, mechanical objects or components of a cash register.”

Assembled: The art of Robert Klippel
TarraWarra Museum of Art
23 November – 16 February 2020

This article was originally published in the November/December 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Andrew Stephens