By DITA DE BONI
Artist and poet. Died aged 63.
I never knew Tom Kreisler as more than a booming, high-spirited voice down the phone, and the creator of playful and uniquely clever vignettes which dotted the walls of the home of my sister and her partner, Nick, one of Tom's three sons.
Yet his sudden passing last week has left an indelible impression, even on this distant admirer, and a sadness at never having met, in the flesh, the mind behind a delightful body of work.
Tom's drawings demonstrate the ability of art to both entertain and inform, to make you titter and then throw you into deep contemplation, and their abundance will ensure his legacy is not soon forgotten.
Tom was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1938 and came to New Zealand in the early 50s. He graduated with honours in painting from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts, and then went with his wife, Lesley, to New Plymouth to teach art at New Plymouth Boys' High School.
New Plymouth appealed to the Kreislers after they read about an innovative gallery project, the Govett-Brewster. They were to help further cement the city's reputation as a stop on the fine-art trail when they established the Lesley Kreisler gallery in 1990.
Tom believed that great art did not have to be made or enjoyed in Paris or London. He passionately believed in art as an intellectual joy that occurred first in the mind, and was more interested in ideas than brushstrokes.
His background - he was the son of Jewish parents who had fled Vienna - and an acute hatred of pretence gave his huge body of work a sophisticated, cultured air, and he set himself apart from his fellow Kiwi artists by never exploring his identity through landscape.
His family say his last works were meditations on death, featuring text in different languages - a common Tom device.
Other, more joyful works were at the Auckland Art Gallery's Cartoon Show exhibition, a testament to his mastery of his favoured genre.