Tom Kreisler

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b. 1938

d. 2002

‘Argentinian born Kreisler came to New Zealand in 1952 and graduated from the University of Canterbury School Of Fine Arts in 1965. He moved to New Plymouth in 1968 where he taught art at New Plymouth Boys’ High School and later at the Taranaki Polytechnic. His students included Paul Hartigan whose work also features in the Sarjeant Gallery’s collection. In 1990, Tom and his wife Lesley set up the Lesley Kreisler Gallery. As well as the Sarjeant, Kreisler’s work also features in other New Zealand institutions including the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, and the Auckland Art Gallery. More recent acquisitions have included a private American collector, and the Art Gallery of NSW.

The pastel acrylics and dyes Kreisler chose for Dancing Dogs aids in the work’s humorous and light hearted nature, something which can be seen in many of his other works. As well as painting euphoric dogs Kreisler used poetic phrases such as “he didn’t change his life he changed his pants” and “first we heat you then we eat you”. His later works rendered images of pastel hued skeletons eating hamburgers and holding brooms. Often, Kreisler’s cartoon style of drawing also hints at deeper and darker themes. The skeletons reference death as do the happy dogs in Dancing Dogs. Kreisler’s execution of his twirling dogs is faithfully based on the traditional Mexican funeral ceramics found in the Western state of Colima. These effigies of loyal Mexican hairless dogs depicted in a dancing embrace were often buried in tombs to guide and accompany their master’s soul to the afterlife.

Dancing Dogs was exhibited at the Sarjeant Gallery in 1984 for the Wanganui Art Awards and purchased for the Sarjeant’s permanent collection. The work has since been displayed on numerous occasions including the solo Not a Dog Show at the Govett-Brewster in 1986 and The Cartoon Show at Auckland Art Gallery in 2001.

Five years after his passing in 2002, his son Aaron Kreisler curated the first major survey of his work. The exhibition, simply titled Tom Kreisler, featured large scale paintings, including Dancing Dogs, alongside working drawings and note books, and was first shown at the Govett-Brewster in New Plymouth in 2007.’ Text excerpt from ‘Tom Kreisler and his Dancing Dogs’ by Te Maari Barham,
Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.

‘Tom Kreisler has been described as one of New Zealand’s finest and funniest painters. Migrating from Argentina as a teenager, Kreisler developed a practice that sat distinct from many New Zealand artists at the time. While others looked inwardly to the specificities of their local experience, Kreisler looked outward to the world with great vitality and humour. His works are marked by a lightness of touch, and as we see in Prosaic Mosaic, take much delight in the poetry of everyday existence.’ Text excerpt from: Lisa Catt, assistant curator international art, Art Gallery Of NSW.

Comma Dot Dogma is a Monograph edited by Aaron Kreisler, authors are Deborah Lynn and Tom Kreisler. Surveying the artwork of Argentinian born, New Zealand painter Tom Kreisler. Published by Umbrella Press in 2004, the book was a finalist in the Montana Book Awards.

TOM WHO? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler. Documentarian Shirley Horrocks (Marti: The Passionate Eye) felt that the whimsical, subversive but publicity-shy Kreisler deserved to be better known. Horrocks interviewed fans and friends of the late artist, and headed to Mexico to find out how the country influenced him. 

Tom Who? debuted at the 2015 Auckland Film Festival.