Through vibrant colour and myriad forms of life, I attempt to present a unique view of the underwater world beyond the Newfoundland shoreline - the seabirds along its rocky cliffs and its bogs, forest and fields inland. The surface teems with details from the natural environment, but captures the duality of its fragility and durability under the harsh conditions on this edge of Canada. Through direct observation of the environment, I build up a storehouse of experiences and memories - supported by reference photographs and scientific fact - that are the catalyst for my paintings.
From artist statement in Discovery exhibition publication, organized by the Discovery Consortium, St. John's, Newfoundland, 1997.
Diana Dabinett was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), in central Africa, in 1943. In 1963 Dabinett received a bachelor of fine arts from Cape Town University in South Africa. In the following years, she taught at high schools in Zimbabwe and in England.
While in England she met and later married Pat Dabinett. The couple emigrated to Canada in 1968, settling in London, Ontario where she was employed for four years as assistant curator at the Art Gallery of London (now the London Regional Art and Historical Museums). They moved to Newfoundland in 1975, and she began a career as a practicing artist full-time.
Dabinett is a painter, sculptor and fibre artist who was trained in oil painting, carving and printmaking, but works primarily with water-based materials such as dye on silk and watercolour on paper. Inspired by the Newfoundland environment, she renders subjects such as plants, bogs, the sea and ocean life in translucent but brightly coloured blends.
In 1997 the AGNL exhibited Pathways, a collaborative installation between Dabinett and another artist, Tara Bryan, which consisted of a series of fabric works reconstructing the scenic coastal paths that link both artists communities together. The gallery space was transformed overhead and underfoot by painted silk banners of trees and cliffs, the ocean and the night sky.
In 1998 Dabinett went to Hopedale, Labrador, to work as the director and facilitator of Artists and Communities, a 14 month pilot program funded by The Canada Council and the Labrador School Board. This program united local artists and students in creating a permanent art installation in the new Amos Comenius Memorial School. The program was such a success that it gave rise to the exhibition, Avertok: Place of the Whales, which toured provincially. It included Dabinett's own work and that of the participating artists and students.
Dabinett has received many commissions from government and private organizations. In addition to being part of the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador's Permanent Collection, her work is included in the collections of The Canada Council Art Bank, the Government of Canada, the University of Western Ontario, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.