It is with great sadness that Te Manawa acknowledges the passing of Paul Dibble. An artist with an unwavering vision and commitment to bronze, Dibble was one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most highly regarded sculptors. His striking works pepper the landscape of Papaioea like markers of the place he called home, depicting symbols like the huia, the kōwhai and the tuatara, which he used to express his ideas about what it meant to belong.
Dibble has had a long association with Te Manawa and we are proud to hold nine of his significant sculptures in our collection. His first large scale public sculpture Pacific Monarch, commissioned by the Te Manawa Art Society, was completed in 1992 and sits outside the front of our art gallery. This work exemplifies the artist’s interest in creating bronze that represented New Zealanders, from early navigators of Te Moana Nui ā Kiwa (the Pacific) to the waves of migrants that came after. The details in this work, from the little bird sitting on her leaf crown to the barnacles on her thigh, reflect the artist’s well-honed processes that make his works feel as if they are laden with texture and life.
A graduate of the Elam School of Fine Arts in 1967, in his 60-year career Dibble has had countless exhibitions in New Zealand and overseas, and his work can be found in collections including Te Papa, The Christchurch Art Gallery, The Dowse, Massey University and Saatchi and Saatchi. In 2004 he was awarded an NZOM for Services to the Arts, and in 2007 he received an honorary doctorate in Visual Arts from Massey University. In 2012, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Universal College of Learning in Palmerston North. His most well-known international public sculpture, Southern Stand, the New Zealand Memorial made for Hyde Park Corner in London, was unveiled in 2006 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Over and above his prolific career, generosity, and services to the arts as a teacher, maker and innovator, Paul Dibble was a dedicated husband, father and grandfather. He is survived by his wife Fran, his children Ben, Renae, Daniel, and Phoebe and his four grandchildren. He ran his practice and studio alongside Fran, who has also written several books about the artist. Their partnership enabled them to build their life around making meaning and beauty through their art. Fran and the Dibble’s representative and close friend Bronwyn Zimmerman co-curated the exhibition Paul Dibble: Continuum, currently on show at Te Manawa until 10 March 2024.
While Paul is no longer with us, he will always remain in the fabric of our place, and our hearts. Moe mai rā e te Rangatira, rest in peace e hoa.