Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler
Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler is a feature-length film about the New Zealand artist, born in Argentina and influenced by Mexican folk art.
Argentina & Mexico & Aotearoa New Zealand
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Image: "Tom Who? the Enigma of Tom Kreisler" Film 2015
Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler is 73-minute film about New Zealand artist Tom Kreisler (1938–2002). The film was produced by award-winning documentary maker Shirley Horrocks and debuted at the Whānau Mārama New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland in 2015.
Tom was born in Argentina to a Jewish family that had fled Europe to escape the Nazis. He was sent to New Zealand when he was 13 years old. What was intended to be a short stint ended up as a lifelong stay, and he spent most of his adult life teaching art to high-school students in New Plymouth. Tom's geographical, cultural and psychological displacement shaped his artistic vision. His paintings have a striking originality and rich, subversive humour, which is different to the darkness and heaviness of New Zealand art at that time.
Tom returned to Latin American in 1977, to visit his sick mother in Mexico, and subsequently moved to Mexico with his family for two years. His work was influenced by Mexican art and traditions - he loved the folk art of the Day of the Dead and made several other trips to Mexico to explore that interest. Dancing Dogs, one of Tom's most famous paintings, was based on traditional Mexican funeral ceramics that show loyal Mexican hairless dogs in a dancing embrace. These ceramics were often buried in tombs to guide and accompany their master’s soul to the afterlife.
Although Tom was one of New Zealand’s best modern artists, he was known more as a local art teacher and bohemian character than as a painter. Producer Shirley Horrocks felt that publicity-shy Tom deserved to be better known. In Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler, Shirley interviews curators, artists, and Tom’s friends and fans, and visits Mexico to see the art that inspired him. The film features many of New Zealand’s leading artists, including Jim Allen, Ian Athfield, Fiona Clark, John Coley, Wystan Curnow, Dick Frizell, Paul Hartigan, John Hurrell, Aaron Kreisler, John Maynard, Simon Morris, John Perry, Seraphine Pick, Priscilla Pitts, Dame Cheryll Sotheran, Dr Linda Tyler, Warren Viscoe and Dr Ruth Watson.
Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler was created by Point of View Productions, with support from Creative NZ Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa, a feature film finishing grant from the New Zealand Film Commission, Tony Green and The Chartwell Trust.
Published 02 November 2023
“[Tom] wanted to reach people in a different way. It was quite different to the heaviness and darkness of the New Zealand art at the time. But there was seriousness beneath his humour.”
Released in 2015
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