Australia, 1920-2001

No.821, 1989
bronze, artist’s proof
90.5 x 84.0 x 74.0 cm
inscribed: R K 821 ’89 A/P

Robert Klippel: painted wood sculptures at three locations, Legge Gallery, Sydney, 13 November – 1 December 1990, catalogue no. 43  

In 1990 Robert Klippel turned 70 and his sculpture had covered 45 years.  During the 1980’s his output was so prodigious that he completed more sculpture in that decade than in the proceeding thirty five years, some 450 works in all and including most of his largest works.  A super abundance unequalled in Australian art history.
In the last three years of that decade he completed 138 large painted wood sculptures that represented a break- through in Klippel’s aspirations.  And, in 1990, seventy nine of these sculptures were chosen for an exhibition ‘Painted wood sculptures at three locations’.  Sculpture No. 821 was in that exhibition. 

The ‘breakthrough’ achieved by these late sculptures owes something to the material from which they were made.  They were assembled from wooden foundry patterns which Klippel had been collecting for at least 20 years.  His interest was drawn to them when he come across a cache of them in 1964.  But until 1981 he made no use of them.  The problem was that Colin Lanceley had also chanced upon some wooden patterns and in the mid-sixties and had used them in a series of brilliant and witty constructions that seemed to Klippel to pre-empt his use of them.  He needed time for Lanceley’s solutions to fade from his mind. 

Klippel first works with the wooden patterns were in 1981 and were cast into the impressive group of eight bronzes in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Australia.  Of the precepts underlining Klippel’s work the one more strongly expressed in these wooden sculptures than in any that preceded them is a preference to the static rather than the dynamic.  He said ‘I am more appreciative of works which have a quiet, serene, timeless quality – like Buddha, Chinese art etc.”.

The patterns from which these sculptures were constructed were designed for the casting process so bronzes could ideally be made from them.  Inevitably though the wooden originals have a special significance.  It is interesting that of the seventy nine sculptures he exhibited in 1990 there were four wooden originals he would not part with and No. 821 was one of the four.

Geoffrey Legge

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