Shirley Horrocks’ doco sheds new light on the life and art of Tom Kreisler, a 20th-century New Zealand painter with scant interest in landscape but a strong affinity with Mexican traditions and the wit and verve of Pop Art.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
Q+A with Shirley Horrocks at all screenings.
If the art of Tom Kreisler (1938–2002) remains a secret, Shirley Horrocks’ richly illustrated doco does everything right to make it less so. A uniquely cosmopolitan figure in the New Zealand arts scene, he grew up in Argentina, the son of Austrian refugees from Nazi Europe. At age 13 they sent him to Christchurch, where a well-to-do uncle and aunt adopted him. (Ian Athfield was a boyhood friend.) He left New Zealand and travelled the world before returning and entering art school. In his first dealer show, with what proved to be characteristic Pop Art verve he mocked the Arts Council 1967 tour of a replica of Michelangelo’s David by exhibiting a giant painting of the statue’s penis. Averse to marketing and the politics of the art world, he preferred to live with his family in New Plymouth and do his own thing, teaching art to high school students, though at one point he attempted a break for Mexico. Exploring the artist’s inspiration, Horrocks heads to Mexico too, to explore the Day of the Dead culture that was a lifelong influence. Back in New Zealand, family, curators and numerous artists share their stories, making those of us who never met the man wish that we had.