Paul Dibble

ABOUT PAUL DIBBLE

Paul Dibble is an artist of considerable vision and drive. A contemporary sculptor working in bronze, he can be located within a twentieth-century European sculptural tradition. Much of his work is concerned with the human figure in all its heroism and frailty. Recognisable objects drawn from the contemporary life and history of New Zealand and the Pacific are also a large part of his oeuvre. These objects and figures form fragments of many narratives. Ideas which begin as beautiful fluid line drawings are worked and reworked to a point of perfect balance before being modelled and cast.

From a foundry in Palmerston North, Dibble casts all his own work with the help of a small team of highly skilled assistants. These sculptures vary in size from 350 millimetre high maquettes to large works of over 5.5 metres in height. The casting in bronze of one’s own work is virtually unheard of in New Zealand, particularly on such a large scale, and is in itself a technical feat requiring considerable skill and experience. The casting processes that Dibble has used for his more recent works are based on two methods; ceramic shell, lost wax casting and sand casting. While many of his works in the past have been assembled from a number of small pieces, larger premises have enabled the casting of works in a single mould. The final sculptures are finished with a range of patinas – from a rich pastoral green, to a golden brown and a deep, earthy black.

Vitality and humour are defining characteristics of Dibble’s work. It has been said of his large figurative works that he is “attracted to the humanism and wit of Matisse’s sculpture, rather than to Henry Moore’s solemnity and static calm.” (Alexa Johnson in Paul Dibble, Bateman, 2001, p. 116) In mood these works alternate between a lightness of spirit that is at times impulsive and frivolous to more grounded pieces, which while they remain vital, also have a monumental presence.

As a young artist one of his aims was to create sculpture “of a size and nature to be effective outside, away from the protected gallery environment”(A.K.C.Petersen, in Paul Dibble, ibid, p. 64) and hence his concentration on large-scale works in bronze. Many of these larger works however are also cast as small maquettes, allowing the works an intimacy that they would not otherwise have.

Dibble has worked in a range of styles reflecting influences from Surrealism and folk art, to a cool elegant Modernism. In some works, notably the large figure sculptures, the artist contrasts different styles by combining the sinuous curves of the human figure with geometric forms. Many of these pieces when viewed from the front have an imposing mass but from the side “disappear into abstracted wafers”, creating a play between two and three dimensions and imbuing the works with a sense of lightness that belies their often massive weight and size (Fran Dibble in Paul Dibble, ibid, p. 134). Many of Dibble’s sculptures are affectionate portrayals of New Zealand icons drawn from everyday life, while others are parodies and still others have a comic cartoon-like quality.

In addition to the human figure, Dibble has drawn on a vast array of symbols and forms including feathers, archaeological relics such as Maori anchor stones, forms derived from Maori folk art, a larger-than-life spinning top, monumental leaves balanced on their tips, oars speaking of voyages and migration, mermaids, spiral shells and animals – both real and imagined. While these may seem disparate forms they are all anchored within the history of New Zealand and the wider Pacific region.

Pacific references feature in numerous different ways in Dibble’s sculpture. In the figurative works this is often expressed in their textured surfaces. On the body of many of these figures the artist traces the culture of the Pacific in patterns of chevrons, spirals and frangipani flowers. These patterns are like that of tapa cloth or tattoos, written on the body of the sculpture like a map of the history and culture of the islands.

In 2004 Dibble embarked on a new series of works titled Soft Geometrics. Dibble’s geometric figures, usually straight and extended, became pushed forward into a crouch or bent impossibly back in soft, undulating forms. Legs are tucked under or elbows stretched up luxuriously. In some of the forms it is hard to find the anatomy, searching the geography for breasts, the sphere of the head and lengths that could be legs or arms. These works also look at Dibble’s characteristic use of negative shapes, which are as integral to the composition as the positive masses. Kowhaiwhai patterns and koru spirals are cut-out in silhouette, bringing formal qualities to the sculptures. These works speak of both Maori and European history, with references to Arp, Brancusi and Gordon Walters, mixed with Maori design and relief carvings, bringing together a rich and eclectic history.

Dibble’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions since the early 1970s, and in 2001 the Manawatu Art Gallery in Palmerston North held a major survey exhibition including around sixty works. Dibble also exhibits frequently as part of public outdoor sculpture events including Sculpture on the Gulf (Waiheke Island) and Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi Beach, Sydney (2000).

In November 2006 Dibble’s memorial sculpture in London’s Hyde Park was unveiled. This commission was awarded by the Ministry of Culture & Heritage and commemorates the relationship between the two countries and those loyal New Zealand servicemen who fought in armed conflict alongside Britain. The work consists of sixteen vertical bronze pieces over seven feet high. Their surfaces are detailed with reminders of home – pipi shells, korus and rugby balls, alongside exerts of New Zealand poetry and quotations. The second edition of Bateman’s 2001 publication of Dibble’s work was also released in late 2006.

Text courtesy of Gow Langsford Gallery

Paul Dibble was born in Waitakaruru, in the Thames district, in 1943. He currently lives and works in Palmerston North.

EDUCATION & AWARDS

1963-67
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Sculpture), Elams School of Fine Arts, the University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

2004
Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit

2007
Honorary Doctorate, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2017
The Geometrics, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

2015
On the Road Again, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
The Geometric Figure, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand

2014
Picking Up Threads, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
The Gold of the Kowhai, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

2013
A Walk in the Park, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand

2012
Paul Dibble: A Decade of Sculpture, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
The Ghost of the Huia in the Orchard, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

2011
The Watchers, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
Sources, Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History, Palmerston North, New Zealand

2010
The Dance, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
Performers, Brooke Gifford Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Bird’s Eye View, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

2009
Thoughts About Men and Birds, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
The Geometric Figures, Black Barn Gallery, Havelock North, New Zealand

2008
Gods, Devils and Men, Black Barn Gallery, Havelock North, New Zealand
Paradise, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

2007
In the Sticks, Black Barn Gallery, Havelock North, New Zealand

2006
Unfolding Model, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Paul Dibble, Martin Browne Fine Arts, Sydney, Australia

2005
Recent Bronze Sculptures, Martin Browne Fine Arts, Sydney, Australia
Building on Modernism, Black Barn Gallery, Havelock North, New Zealand

2004
Soft Geometrics, Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand
Soft Geometrics, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

2003
Looking for Australia, Gow Langsford Gallery, Sydney, Australia
Down the Line, Brooke Gifford Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Recent Bronze Sculptures, Gorge Road Gallery, Queenstown, New Zealand; Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

2002
Where the Owl sits on the Water – The Tableaux of Paul Dibble, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Around the Firth of Thames, Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand

2001
The Calici Smile, Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand
Survey Exhibition, Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand

2000
Unfinished Business, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Balanced Gestures, Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand
Opposites Attract, Michael Carr Gallery, Sydney, Australia

1999
Works from 1999, Brooke Gifford Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Revisiting Formalism, Bowen Gallery, Wellington New Zealand

1998
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

1997
Drips and Drops, Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Recent Selected Works, Brooke Gifford Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
All About the Edges, Bowen Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

1996
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

1995
Made in New Zealand, Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North; Bowen Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

1994
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

1993
New Work, Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand

1992
Pacific Monarch, Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Stories from the Hinterland, Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand

1991
Recent Editions, Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand
From Reason and Myth, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

1990
Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand

1989
Sculpture for Cities, Hawkes Bay Cultural Centre, Hastings; Fisher Gallery, Auckland; Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand

1988
From Fire and Water, Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand

1984
Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand

1983
Concrete in the Garden, Wairarapa Arts Centre, Masterston; Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand

1981
Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand

1979
Jeff Thomson, Auckland, New Zealand

1978
Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand

1972
Barry Lett Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

1971
Barry Lett Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2016
2016, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

2013
Sculpture on the Peninsula, Banks Peninsula, Christchurch, New Zealand
Parallel, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand

2010
Wanganui Sculpture, Whanganui River, Whanganui, New Zealand
Botanical Gardens Sculpture Exhibition, Botanical Gardens, Auckland, New Zealand
A Beautiful Place, Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka, New Zealand

2009
Landscape, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
Double Take, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Sculpture on the Peninsula, Banks Peninsula, Christchurch, New Zealand
Sources: Paul and Fran Dibble, Mahara Gallery, Waikanae, New Zealand
Crème II, Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka, New Zealand
An Artist’s Aviary, John Leech Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Slugs, Snails and Spider Tales: A Closer Look at Conservation, Te Manawa Museum of Art, History and Science, Palmerston North, New Zealand

2008
With an Object in Mind, Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka, New Zealand
Stoneleigh Sculpture in the Gardens, Auckland Botanic Gardens, Auckland, New Zealand
12th Annual L.A. Art Show, Los Angeles, United States

2006
Birds: The Art of New Zealand Bird Life, Pataka Museum + Art, Porirua, New Zealand
Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

2005
Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand

2004
Shapeshifters, Wellington Arts Festival, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Sculpture Exhibition, Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand
Sculpture 2004, Gow Langsford Gallery, Sydney, Australia

2003
Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand

2002
Changing Spaces, Civic Square, Wellington, New Zealand

2001
Catalogue Exhibition, Gow Langsford Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

2000
Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
Opposites Attract: New Zealand Painting and Sculpture by Paul Dibble and Mervyn Williams, Michael Carr Fine Art, Sydney, Australia

1998
(Re)visioning the Real, Lopdell House, Auckland; Robert McDougall Gallery, Christchurch; Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui, New Zealand
Australian Contemporary Art Fair 6, Gow Langsford Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

1997
Think About Contemporary Art, Christchurch Arts Festival, Christchurch, New Zealand
Figurative, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Huia – Sacred Bird, Lost Treasure, Science Centre and Museum, Palmerston North, New Zealand

1996
NZ Real, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand

1995
H20, Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand

1994
Australian Contemporary Art Fair 4, Bowen Galleries and Gow Langsford Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Elvis in Geyserland, the Bath House, Rotorua, New Zealand

1992
A Breath of Fresh Air, the Bath House Art and History Museum, Rotorua, New Zealand

1989
Gate, Door, Lintel, Fisher Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
The Painted Zoo, Shed II, National Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

1985
Spare Parts, Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand

1982
Art in Boxes, Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Hansells Sculpture Exhibition, Wairarapa Arts Centre, Masterton, New Zealand

1980
Hansells Sculpture Exhibition, Wairarapa Arts Centre, Masterton, New Zealand

1978
Hansells Sculpture Exhibition, Wairarapa Arts Centre, Masterton, New Zealand

1976
Five New Zealand Sculptors, Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand

1974
Mildura Sculpture Exhibition, Mildura, Australia

SELECTED COLLECTIONS

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Hawke’s Bay Cultural Centre, Hastings, New Zealand
Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Napier, New Zealand
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand
Massey University, Palmerston North and Auckland, New Zealand
Aigantighe Gallery, Timaru, New Zealand
Te Manawa Museum of Art, History and Science, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Saatchi and Saatchi, Wellington, New Zealand
James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland, New Zealand
Lambton Quay Harbour Board, Wellington, New Zealand
Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand
Koru Lounge, Air New Zealand, New Zealand
Christensen Estate Winery, Waiheke Island, New Zealand

COMMISSIONS

2006
The Southern Stand, New Zealand Hyde Park Corner Memorial in association with John Hardwick-Smith from Athfield Architects, opened on Armistice Day, 11 November, by the Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and attended by the Prime Ministers of Britain and New Zealand, and a number of the members of the Royal Family.

2005
Sculpture for Waikato University to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

2004
Sculpture for Christensen Estate Winery, Waiheke Island.
Sculpture for UCol Polytechnic Institute, Palmerston North.

2000
Sculpture for Lindisfarne College, Hastings.
Commissioned by IMOVE/Wellington Sculpture Trust to produce a Sculpture for the Wellington Airport round-about.

1999
Sculpture for Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland.
Large wall piece for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Auckland.
Sculpture for Wanganui Collegiate School, Whanganui.

PUBLICATIONS

Brown, Warwick, Another 100 New Zealand Artists, Godwit Publishing, 1996.
Caughey, Elizabeth and John Gow, Contemporary New Zealand Art 4, David Bateman Publishers, 2002.
Dibble, Fran (ed.), Paul Dibble, David Bateman Publishers, 2001.
―, Paul Dibble: The Large Works, David Bateman Publishers, 2012.
Dunn, Michael, New Zealand Sculpture: A History, Auckland University Press, 2002.