Paul Dibble's works range from small maquettes to monumental public sculptures. They have been observed as a joyful reinterpretation of European Modernism from a Pacific perspective. The highly abstracted and geometricised forms found in his human figures hark back to Matisse and Picasso, while the abstraction and monumentality of his public pieces echo the work of Henry Moore. Following the European tradition, Dibble casts primarily in bronze; however, he also favours COR-TEN steel and gilded gold. By contrast, his subjects are distinctively domestic: narratives from New Zealand and Pacific mythologies and history; 'Kiwi icons' such as sheep; and native flora and fauna, especially birds.
Born in 1943 in Thames, Dibble graduated with Honours from the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1967. He is most recognised as the creator of The Southern Stand (2006)—the New Zealand War Memorial in Hyde Park, London.
The exhibition The Gold of the Kowhai (2014) at Gow Langsford Gallery exemplifies Dibble at work. At its heart was a large model of a kowhai flower, 3.38 metres in height and gilded gold. As the flower is a rich source of nectar for birds and small lives, it symbolised the life of the New Zealand bush and marked the show as a massive tribute to such life. On the other hand, the title derives from a 1989 poem by William Pember Reeves—an amateur poet who lamented the destruction of nature. Despite the cheerful congregation of birds and the kowhai flowers, Dibble's forest also revealed that it may be reduced to a thing of the past if not conserved properly. Two bird-man figures invited the viewer to contemplate the forest through the bird's eyes.
Another of Dibble's longstanding interests is the human body. His human figures are made of simple geometric shapes. In the 1990s, Dibble created straight and extended forms that were gestural to the point of surreal. However, since around 2004 they have become soft and curved, as found in the ongoing series 'The Soft Geometrics'.
A major survey exhibition of Dibble's works was organised by the Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, in 2001. Dibble also became a Member of The New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004. He has an Honorary Doctorate from Massey University and is an Honorary Fellow of the Universal College of Learning (UCOL). Creating both indoor and outdoor works, Dibble has participated in sculpture events such as Sculptures on the Gulf, Waiheke Island, and Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney. His work is in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington; Te Manawa, Palmerston North; University of Waikato; and Massey University. In 2000, Dibble established his own bronze foundry in Palmerston North for his large-scale works.