Through the 80s and 90s when figurative work was completely out of favour sculptor Paul Dibble relentlessly created his semi-realistic depictions; mermaids and farmers, characters holding oceans, sheep and ukulele; that described New Zealand. He toyed with abstraction in a series in the late 90s - constructionist works where the figure, but still a figure, was reduced to the mathematical shapes of cones and spheres. It was only midway into the 2000 decade when simple forms predominated and he included in his oeuvre works that would be defined as truly abstract, this area not explored since his student days at art school.
Only what must be described as a contrary bend makes him take up and mount an exhibition of abstracted forms now, when figurative work has returned to favour. The new abstracts at Page Blackie Gallery include some which are rounded soft forms, with shapes like koru and circles carved out of their bulk. These negative shapes are worked with as much consideration in composition as the actual form itself. They exist as gems with satisfying proportions that become aesthetic objects. Although not realistic these artworks still carry their own narrative. They hint at the movements of international and New Zealand modernism, sounding distant echoes of the voice of Arp, Zadkine, Archipenko and Picasso but still encompass a bicultural background in both the European and Maori.
Other works in the exhibition stretch the shapes into multi-pronged, more fluid forms, often with several articles fitted in together, creating an internal dialogue within the works in the way the elements relate to each other.
So this show is a return and an adaption. It calls to mind where Dibble has come from - art school training by lecturers that were still seeped in the history of modernism - but extended and moving forward - relocating it to this land and updating it into the contemporary.