Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Paul Dibble: Paradise
Gow Langsford
3 June – 27 June 2008

There is something heavy-handed and cornily literal about Paul Dibble’s bronzes. Despite all that work to do the modelling and casting, the results invariably look gross. Clunky, mixed with a dreary civic narrative.

In this show even the walking figures with their strangely contoured, cutaway bottoms (and compressed flatness devoid of textured nuance) can’t compete with the traylike landscapes balanced on giant fish heads, for awkwardly uneven compositions.

Lots of artworks have explored the ambulatory theme: Richard Killeen’s little postal labels; Warren Viscoe’s wooden, folksy constructions; Nigel Brown’s narrative paintings; Euan McLeod’s oil landscapes are some - yet surprisingly few artists have in my view made images of striding figures that are successful. That handful would include Alberto Giacometti, Greer Twiss, and Anthony Gormley.

The reasons are to do with those artists' preoccupation with form. Giacometti created 3-D richly textured, highly inventive distorted figures that alluded to death within life, Gormley uses computers to create Panting-like clusters of bars in densely organised suggestions of body parts, and Twiss, in the late sixties, used paint over small bronze torsos with truncated limbs to suggest the edges of photographs - giving the body areas you did see, a sense of underlying muscle.

With Dibble though, the walking figures look silhouette based and unconsciously wonky. They are unintentionally ugly. Your eye doesn’t participate in the action of his strollers with empathy. You are not captivated by the surface or edge because its treatment is a cliché, and as such, undernourishing.


andrew said...

If what you say about this work is accurate, to what do you attribute the terrific commercial success of the show?

John Hurrell said...

I am completely baffled by its commercial success,Neil. There are not many bronze sculptors around. Maybe it is the material that appeals to collectors and not the sculptural object? I don't think Dibble has any ranking with the cognoscenti. I don't know who would champion him.