Tag Archives: contemporary art


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The Brandpowder Team will soon publish a book about John Trefford and his huge oil paintings. It’s a comprehensive retrospective of his work, back from 1967 when he started as a chaffeur for Rotchko. Five years later he was the assistant and lover of Klaudia Klammewitz Obermayer, the Prussian, blue blood gallerist who launched him as the rising star of Mitteleuropean Modernity, the wunderkammer, enfant prodige of a monstruous hyper-reality. She died last year, aged 101 like a rare cognac, squashed under the grand-piano she loved so much to play, which fell from the third floor of her new villa in Wien. Klaudia, better known as K.O. among friends and admirers, left a legacy that will influence the art world for decades to come. John Trefford didn’t attend the funeral because he was painting. And that’s what he basically did for the last 40 years: painting. That’s why there not much gossip about Trefford’s life, apart rumors about a complicated relationship with Susan Dill Don, heiress of the Dilldon empire. He is the prototype of the real contemporary artist: ambitious, selfish, and cursed by his ghosts, mostly when drunk. Trefford paints only on big surfaces made of rough linen he damps into a solution of benzene and plastalc before applying the first layer of paint. He is comfortable to work only with vintage, boar hair, shaving brushes and he prepares his own colors starting from natural pigments and mineral powders he grinds on a marble mortar, following the old school of painters from the Renaissance. John Trefford’s work is considered a safe bet in the contemporary art market, today. Given his laid back attitude, and the fact he doesn’t really need to paint to survive (his last portrait sold for 14 million dollars) collectors need to be patient if they want to bring home one of his marvellous works. We publish here only a few portraits from the 2012 series “Big Faces, Small Pussies”, and a few of his tools. All photos by Monica Turlot for the Brandpowder Team, courtesy of the artist.

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Opening picture (top): Lyn Ann, 1999 (10 x 7 ft) – Private collection, New York. Above: Gwenda, 1991 (10 x 7,5 ft) – Recently bought by the MOJA Museum (NJ).

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Above: Klaudia, 1971 (12 x 7,5 ft) – Property of the artist. Below: Tyra, 2003 a big canvas commissioned by the China World Fair, and later bought by a Mongolian collector.

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Above: Kuwalla, 1988 (13×10 ft) – private collection. This painting was stolen in 1984 and sold twice to the same owner. Below: a rare picture of Trefford at work, while painting Lyn Ann in 1999. (photo archive, courtesy of Life Magazine).

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Below: The artists tools, numbered by colors. Boar’s hair is strong and delicate at the same time and Trefford always rinses his brushes with a solution of water, carnauba wax and vinegar. He told us turpentine oil can be ruthlessly harsh on brushes and it shortens their lifespan.


caseAbove: Trefford never travels without his vintage pinewood oil case, a gift he received from Rotchko. Working as a chaffeur was very important for Trefford, a life-changing experience, according to him, because it helped him to find his own way as an artist. “Rotchko was filthy rich and all he did was splashing colors on a canvas. I wanted that kind of life, even if I never needed someone to drive my car.” – Below: some of the natural powders Treford uses for his paintings and a large splash of Terra di Siena during preparation.



Below:  The book about Trefford, soon to be published by the Brandpowder Team. It will include more than 350 paintings, plus many pictures and documents about the artist’s life.

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Trefford is now painting at the Mowers Mental Hospital where is recovered after his breakdown in 2007. His psychiatric conditions are stable and, fortunately, didn’t compromize his artistic vein and ability as a painter.  He told us, at the end of our meeting, that things are never like they apPEAR. We laughed together. We couldn’t agree more.



Above: “Me No Blonde” oil on canvas, 55×73 in. (140×185 cm).

I am happy to present a brief selection of jumbo-size paintings from Klaus Kizzinskitz, a Polish artist who is going to be in New York and London (not at the same time, of course) to promote his “On Hair” exhibitions, both on schedule at the Late Art Gallery. Kizzinskitz, 26 year old, is considered one of the new talents of the Art World. One of his paintings passed, unexpectedly, the 1,5 million dollars’ mark at the Shanghai Auction Fair. Half of the profits, he told me, will be donated to support scientific research to solve premature baldness among business people.

Above: “Alive!” a massive triptych stretching, top to bottom, for almost 30 feet. Kizzinskitz’s technique involves women’s hair brushes. He also personally prepares oil colors, following the Renaissance’s antique recipes. Below: “Sexy Keratin”, another huge canvas. To have an idea of its dimensions, the artist is the size of the woman’s nose.

Kizzinskitz’s fascination with hair is not new. While attending the Warsaw Art College, he found inspiration in the work of Botticelli, De Camp, Degas, Kahlo, Truong and Zhang, just to mention a few. “Hair is made of keratin, a fibrous protein produced by our organism. What fascinates me is the fact hair is made of dead cells, yet is the only part which keeps growing after we die.” Kizzinskitz moves his hands while talking to me, filling the air with imaginary volumes; his grey blue eyes look at me as if I were the only person left in the Universe. His work, when you are in front of the canvas, emanates a particular energy, animated by this ‘lively sense of death’. Colors flow like lava on the surface. This effect, he says, is the result of years of experiments and hard work.

Sandro Botticelli: “Young Woman” (oil).

Joseph De Camp: “Woman combing her hair” (oil).

Edgar Degas: “Woman combing her hair” (oil pastels).

Frida Kahlo: “Self portrait with loose hair” (oil).

Winnie Truong: “The Ginger Bread” (color pencils).

Hong Chun Zhang: “Life Strands”, charcoal on paper.

Kizzinskitz draws hundreds’ life-size sketches before realizing his huge canvases.

Above: Mammoth’s hair from the Ice Age. Kizzinskitz bought it from a collector and it’s now part of his Cabinet of Curiosities. He plans to use it to craft his next brushes. “I never painted with an elephant, before,” he said, smiling childishly.

Monica Turlot (correspondent for the Brandpowder Team, Paris 2012)