'Stories of a Lost Land' by Paul Dibble on display in Market Square

In celebration of Aotearoa Art Fair, the bronze sculpted masterpiece will be on display between Friday 5 – Friday 26 April.

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Latifa’s picks

arted he didn't stop. He travelled and cooked his way around the world from a Michelin-star hotel to a garage with six tables and a kitchen

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Paul Dibble (20 March 1943 – 5 December 2023) was a leading figure of his generation, having created a rich body of sculptural works for public and private contexts over the course of decades. Key themes in his work include native flora and fauna, cultural history, architecture, and the human figure. 

Stories of a Lost Land is a large-scale work that featured in Huia Sings Alone, a solo presentation of the artist’s work at Gow Langsford in 2023. It presents a fresh response to subject matter that the artist knew well – native birds and the flowers of the kōwhai tree.

The birds shown are huia, the famously regal and stunningly beautiful species driven to extinction by early European settlers. We see them here as a pair, representing how they were thought to pair for life, singing duets together. They are sitting perched upon flowering branches of a kōwhai tree. The work is sculpted in bronze, with a 24 carat gold sheet used to produce the opulent golden flowers. Early Aotearoa was paradise for both huia and kōwhai. In the absence of predators, the huia could run riot. Even the kōwhai had free rein, its tiny leaves outsmarting the moa who found it too laboursome to eat.  

Consequently, Stories of a Lost Land is both joyful and sombre. It reflects on the beauty and mythological significance of the huia, though also comments on the circumstances of its extinction. This tone, both celebratory and reflective, is captured in Dibble’s majestic bronze. Among the last series of works produced in the artist’s lifetime, Stories of a Lost Land is a sensational example of his work.

On display in Market Square, Friday 5 – Friday 26 April. Presented courtesy of the artist’s estate, Gow Langsford and Viaduct Harbour. 

Photography by Luke Foley-Martin.

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