11 March 2020 – 18 April 2020Show exhibition essay
Between 1950, when Robert Klippel returned to Sydney following three years in London and Paris, and 1957, when he left Australia for New York, he produced fewer than twenty sculptures. It was a significant period within his artistic development, during which he made the transition from carving to assemblage, replaced wood with metal as his preferred sculptural medium, and produced hundreds of drawings and collages which chart the brilliant diversity of his creative imagination.
Incorporating coloured inks, watercolour, gouache and pencil, Klippel’s drawings sometimes relate to three-dimensional work that was being developed concurrently, and at other times, show him testing sculptural possibilities. The collages, which began in 1952, often reflect his fascination with machinery – pre-dating the sculptures which used reclaimed ‘junk metal’ from machines by almost a decade – while the inspiration he found in the natural world is seen in ink splatters that imitate the appearance and effect of splashing rain. And still other works on paper are more painterly, gestural and expressive. Whatever their approach, Klippel’s mastery of colour, composition and abstract form is always on full display.
Writing in his 1949 diary, Klippel noted that, ‘[d]rawings really are to develop the imaginative process … [and] to widen the range of sculptural possibilities.’ While this statement accurately describes the purpose of many of his drawings and collages which illuminate the generative processes of his sculpture, it downplays their position within his oeuvre. Viewed as a whole, Klippel’s graphic work represents a major part of his output which both complements his better-known sculpture and, in many cases, stands independent of it, exemplifying the tireless experimentation, invention and the desire to ‘make something new’ that characterised his career.