Good Weekend Art Column

Erwin Fabian – Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney

Published September 14, 2019
Erwin Fabian, 'Coronation'

Artist: Erwin Fabian

Lives: Albert Park, Melbourne

Age: 103

Represented by:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney (Australian Galleries, Melbourne)

His thing. Abstract sculptures in metal and wood.

Our take.Erwin Fabian was born in Berlin in 1915 into an artistic family, and grew up during the years of the Weimar Republic. In 1938 he left for England, from where he would be deported on that infamous, overcrowded ship, the Dunera. Although Fabian’s first experience of Australia was an internment camp in Hay, he conceived an affection for this country, and would make it his permanent home from 1962.

One might imagine that an artist who will turn 104 this year would be doing something suitably modest, but Fabian is a sculptor who works in steel and wood. It requires a considerable physical effort to make such pieces yet this compact, brawny man has energy to burn.

Fabian’s wooden works are solid grouping of sliced tree trunks that make no attempt to disguise their orgins. Their implicit monumentality is in striking contrast to the new works in steel, which are as lyrical as anything Fabian has made, with thin bands of metal that seem to ripple in space. The bases are particularly impressive, as these heavy constructions touch the ground so lightly. Works such as Keeping the Balance or Beginning and End are as graceful as dancers propped on their toes.


 Can I afford it?

If Fabian had chosen to live and work in Germany he might be commanding higher prices than he does in Australia, where sculpture has always been undervalued.

The most expensive work in this show is Coronation (144cm by 66cm by 68cm), a metal structure with a serpentine curve, topped by a fractured sphere that acts as a crown. The price is $110,000, which equals the artist’s current record. The cheapest work, at $22,000, is Bushphone (98cm by 40cm by 45cm), a lumpen tower made from four sturdy blocks of wood.

Where can I have a squiz?

Robin Gibson Gallery, 278 Liverpool St. Darlinghurst, Sydney. 7 September -2 October, 2019.


Published in The Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September, 2019