Posted on 7 November 2023
Born at Waitakaruru on the Hauraki Plains, Paul Dibble studied at Elam School of Fine Arts from 1963 until 1967, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Sculpture. After working with Colin McCahon on religious art destined for post-Vatican II Catholic churches in Auckland designed by architect James Hackshaw, Dibble had his first solo exhibition at Barry Lett Gallery in 1971. His work as an art teacher took him to Palmerston North where he set up a home workshop in 1990, teaching himself how to use Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) for arc welding to create precise and clean joins for his bronze forms.
He remained in the Manawatu after he gave up teaching to concentrate on his sculpture, finding the regional lifestyle conducive to his conceptual development. With his co-worker and partner Fran Dibble, he has travelled extensively to hone outstanding workshop techniques using lost wax, ceramic shell and sand-casting methods for bronze. They have perfected a technique where liquid plaster is poured into a double-sided canvas that has been sewn into the shape of a sculptural form which can have modelling wax applied once it has set. This enables Dibble to create his characteristically flattened three-dimensional figures such as Voyager seen here. The original maquette (titled Voyager Model Study 2 2001) shows much more solidly rounded forms, and two biplanes balancing on their wing tips, flanking the sail of the Polynesian canoe, the hull of which is supported by V shape formed by the cylindrical legs of this figure.
cast bronze, edition of 3
signed and dated 2004
3270 x 980 x 9000mm
Private collection, Auckland.
Purchased from Gary Mahan Gallery, Queenstown.
$150 000 - $220 000
View lot here
This work followed on from a commission by architects Craig Craig Moller for The Point Apartments in Auckland’s Viaduct for three figurative sculptures to embody the names given to each block – Pacific, Shearwater and Voyager. Balancing on his elbows, this figure props up dividers at the work’s base, pointing to a type of mathematical compass that was used to measure distances on a nautical chart in European navigation. This contrasts with Polynesian navigators who used their knowledge of stars, currents and the migratory patterns of birds to steer their craft. The calipers form a spindly inverted V shape as counterpoint to the robust upright V of legs holding up the boat.
cast bronze, a/p (from an edition of 2)
signed and dated 2000
1730 x 1730 x 470mm
Private collection, Victoria, Australia.
Purchased from Michael Carr Fine Art, Sydney, 2000.
$100 000 - $150 000
View lot here
The earlier work, Rising Figure 2000 is very similar in conception to Dibble’s iconic Long Horizon 1999 sculpture where a pair of circular holes serve as breasts for an odalisque figure. Based on the long tradition of the reclining female nude in European art, these works balance a sensuously curved torso and buttocks with conical legs on a tall plinth with the pivot point at the figure’s hip. The profile created is one of curving geometries with ball-shaped buttocks, breasts and head, and cylinders for the truncated arms reminiscent of broken Classical marble statuary like the Venus de Milo. However, the legs, encased in sharply pointed cones like thigh-high stiletto boots, dispel any notion of female passivity. Held aloft in a calisthenic manoeuvre, they extend the figure horizontally, and appear a little threatening, like a beak or pair of shears.