14 October - 3 December 2022Show exhibition essay
Robert Klippel was driven by the desire to innovate. Being interviewed in 1995, he explained, ‘The whole point is to make something new. That’s basically what I’m interested in; in seeing something I haven’t seen before.’ This aim was reflected in his inveterate experimentation: with materials – from the junk metal used to create his best-known sculptures from the 1960s onwards, to the large-scale wooden pattern-parts of his late works – as well as with form, an element of his practice which was persistently diverse. Colour too, played an important role in Klippel’s art, moving in and out of prominence, but always reflecting his distinctive aesthetic and unique way of seeing.
Klippel likened time spent in the studio to an adventure and the sense of discovery and delight he found in making art is palpable. There is a playfulness in his use of colour, from the cut out and collaged pieces of coloured paper arranged like leaves on the ‘branches’ of No. 867 c.1967, to the painting and collage that embellishes the wooden surfaces of No. 235 1967. As Deborah Edwards observed, he uses colour as ‘a clarifying force’, to emphasise planes and forms in his sculpture.
Many of the works in this exhibition show Klippel responding to the pre-existing colour of found objects, which he gathered like a bowerbird. A tower striped blue, yellow, black and red, is created from a collection of translucent plastic boxes, while another combines cone-shaped toy trumpets, brightly patterned with spots and stripes. It is seemingly not only colour that attracted Klippel to the items he collected, but also their texture – the smooth sheen of the plastic, the visible grain of wooden blocks – and of course, their form. Colour and texture enliven the form here, demonstrating his ability to identify, select and unite these various elements in works which have a strong visual appeal. However, it is the apparent logic within Klippel’s sculptures that distinguishes them; as if their creation – and the artist’s deft combination of colour, texture and form – was inevitable. Kirsty Grant, 2022.
 Robert Klippel interview, 24 March 1995, quoted in Deborah Edwards, Robert Klippel: Large Wood Sculptures and Collages, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1995, p. 41.
 Deborah Edwards, Robert Klippel, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2002, p. 31.