Tom Kreisler Film at the Len Lye Centre Cinema

Posted Monday 31 Aug 2015



One of New Plymouth's most colourful artists is the subject of a feature-length documentary in this year's International Film Festival, screening at the Len Lye Centre Cinema.

'Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler' made by WIFT member Shirley Horrocks, traces the fascinating life of a unique artist.

"He was known as the local art teacher and bohemian, the man of wild parties, but few local residents realised they had an extraordinary artist in their midst," says director Shirley Horrocks.

The two screenings in the Len Lye Centre Cinema are on Saturday 5 September 5 at 3.30 pm, and Sunday 6 September at 6.30 pm.

"The film is being screened in six cities," says Horrocks, "but the New Plymouth presentation will be very special because Tom Kreisler spent most of his life in this city. He taught at New Plymouth Boys' High School, the polytechnic, and community organisations including the art group in Stratford.  He was a very unusual teacher but he made a huge impact."

The film has interviews with former students who have become leading New Zealand artists, such as Paul Hartigan and Seraphine Pick. Also included are many artistic friends such as architect Ian Athfield, painter Dick Frizzell, photographer Fiona Clark, former Govett-Brewster and Te Papa Director Cheryl Sotheran, and first Govett-Brewster Art Gallery director John Maynard. All testify to Tom Kreisler's lively personality and unique approach to art.

"He believed that art should never be earnest and pretentious," says Horrocks. "He had a wonderful sense of humour."

Tom inspired generations of students until his death in 2002.  His wife Leslie Kreisler has also contributed to the New Plymouth art scene by running the art gallery at 14 Gill Street which bears her name. She's been exhibiting art for more than 30 years.

This colourful, fast-moving documentary traces Tom's life from his birth in Argentina to his arrival (at the age of 13) in New Zealand, then living and working in New Plymouth, apart from several trips to Mexico (where he loved the folk culture associated with the "Day of the Dead").

"Tom chose New Plymouth because he admired the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery - and he was determined to keep his distance from the art politics of Auckland and Wellington," says Horrocks.

"But one of the results was that he never gained the fame he deserved. When people in Auckland asked me who was the subject of my next film, and I'd say 'Tom Kreisler,' they would always reply 'Tom who?' So I made it my title - 'Tom Who?' Now, after the Festival screenings around New Zealand, I hope he's no longer New Plymouth's 'best kept secret'"