Paul Dibble Exhibitions

Paul Dibble

The Godwits

7 Sept - 1 Oct 2019

Exhibition Works

Godwits Do Fly
Godwits Do Fly (2019)
The Return of the Godwits
The Return of the Godwits (2018)
Siberian Stopover
Siberian Stopover (2019)
The Departing of Souls
The Departing of Souls (2019)
Kowhai Means Yellow (Study 2)
Kowhai Means Yellow (Study 2) (2019)
City Bird
City Bird (2019)
Woodpigeon and Kowhai
Woodpigeon and Kowhai (2019)
Fantail on Ring
Fantail on Ring (2016)
Baptism of the Land
Baptism of the Land (2019)


 Video production: Ross Wilson

exhibition text

… from their haunted bay
The godwits vanish towards another summer.
Everywhere in light and calm murmuring
Shadow of departure; distance looks our way
And none knows where he will lie down at night.
- From The Islands by Charles Brasch
The kuaka, or bar-tailed godwit, is a New Zealand resident with dual citizenship: it breeds in the long summer days of the Arctic reaches of Alaska and Eastern Siberia and escapes the region’s harsh winters in New Zealand. Without the physical presence of a plump kereru or a bold tui, the dun-coloured godwit nevertheless captures our imagination due to its astonishing feats of migration and it is this that Paul Dibble celebrates with his new exhibition, The Godwits.

Godwits Do Fly (2019) is the centrepiece of Dibble’s show and captures the essential aspects of the bird for which the show is named. The strong vertical bisecting the work suggests a diurnal clock or compass hand, or a signpost, upon which the godwits wait for their time to fly. With its defined top and bottom - or start and finish points - the ellipse is a fitting symbol for the 12,000 kilometre return trip made by the kuaka each year. The slice of textured bronze ocean creates a horizon that we look down at and as we do so, the space contained within the curved edges becomes an unavoidable part of the sculpture, forming a sky that reaches back through the elliptical frame.

The bronze bird forms themselves, with bandy legs and thin, curved beaks, seem a paradoxical manifestation of a creature that spends a week flying across half the world without pause. While the inherent strength of the bronze reminds us of the astonishing physical endurance exhibited by the kuaka, in Siberian Stopover (2019) Dibble draws the illusion of lightweight delicacy from the mass of cast metal using finely judged juxtapositions of line and form. This same delicate balance is also evident in the subtle rippled movement and the lifted foot of The Departing of Souls (2019), a work in which Dibble reminds us of the kuaka of myth:

Me he kahui kuaka / Like a flock of kuaka are the people at Te Reinga (1)

The birds are emblems of farewell but also of way-finding, be it for departing souls or seafarers. Ngati Awa and Ngai Tahuhu mytho-histories tell how great flocks of godwits led Kupe across the Pacific to Aotearoa; how fitting then, that the phrase “waka kuaka” is used to describe the birds in flight. (2)

The Godwits is also home to the bird-forms that have been integral to Paul Dibble’s sculptural practice for many years. Piwakawaka, kererÅ«, and huia take up their positions amongst golden kowhai as the land-birds of the bush welcome the sea-birds of the skies to their number.
1. Accessed 25/08/19.
2. Ibid.

Exhibition Views