A discovery: Sergio Kokis

A few weeks ago I’ve rediscovered Sergio Kokis. I “re-discoverd” him since I’ve seen and even browsed one of his books, La danse macabre du Quebec (The morbid dance of Quebec?) but, for some reason , I did not clicked at the time…

But, “browsing” through my old papers, I’ve fall upon a cut from L’Actualite (a magazine from Montreal, I think) with an interview featuring Sergio Kokis. And, this time, it clicked! His opinion on today’s art market, on the level of deception and falsity and stupidness and snobishness in today’s art seemed to be simply mine. He formulated the same thoughts, almost, that, for years, had populated my thoughts. The tirany of art “experts” and museums curators, the usually mean spirited and mercantile approach of art merchants, their money-grubbing and vulgar approach of art (under snobish and distinguished appearances, which are valid for the most art “collectors” too…Exceptions confirming the law…)


The imense stupidity, superficiality and arrogance of some artists a la mode, usually “abstract” ones (take Borduas and his followers who wrote manifestos more than he painted something valuable and who was so mean with “figurative” collegues like Pellan and others, if I heard right…). The tirany of “instalations” and so many other “concepts” and “conceptualisms” – a good shield for so many phonies, who try to mask their lack of talent and skills and originality using big words and “concepts” to cover what they were unable to do with images… The injustified spite for those who painted insteed of “conceptualizing” and “verbalising” their “creations…those who silently (or, in the case of Kokis, no so silently) work at their art, no matter if figurative, non-figurative or both. Simply because they needed to DO it… Don’t even start me!…

Anyway, I’ve borowed a few novels by Kokis (who was initially only a painter – mostly a human figure painter, in a raw, crude manner, a bit like Kokoshka and the German Expressionist – the reproductions are his; and I did not ask for permission to reproduce them… I “cite” him and hope he wouldn’t mind…)  Because is was about a painter who become a forger, I’ve started with The Art of Deception, and loved it! Not only because of the subject matter, mind you ! (even if novels about painters who really know what they are talking about are quite rareZola‘s work, L’Oeuvre (The Masterpiece?) seemed kind of phony to me…) But Kokis’s is a true novel, well written, truthfull and no doubt sincere, vigourous and non-conformist. Since then I’m reading  and reading Sergio Kokis and even managed to buy 3 of his (usually I don’t buy books exept for those from charities – in the range of 0,25 to 1-2 $; you can find sometimes amazing stuff! ) and I just started!


He slowly becomes a role model for me – since I had this thought of writing a novel myself (I even began to write a note here, a note there…) And he, just like my beloved Raymond Chandler, published his first book when he was around his fifties… So, there is still some hope….

And did I tell you he is of Bresilian origin (from a Bresilian mother and a lituanian father!) and that he raffled 4 literary prizes (to the spite of “pure laine” quebecois writers…) with his first novel? That he painted a huge number of (well, somber and raw) paintings with a creative power and energy that not every artist has? That he offered his body of paintings called La danse macabre du Quebec to the Museums and government of Quebec – for free! – and was refused? ! (I am not totally surprised since he didn’t make any compromise and politicians, art merchants and generally, almost everyone, weren’t at all spared in his paintings)?


Ok, his painting is somewhat too raw, too strong for me, personally. But I always could tell – still can! – when an artist is truthfull to himself, sincere and original. And HE IS! And that is a lot more that I can say about most of the painters I see nowdays…


The images that illustrate this post are Sergio Kokis’s and I hope he wouldn’t mind…


23 responses to “A discovery: Sergio Kokis

  1. GREAT post, Danu! Written with so much passion and honesty and bon sens, all I love! I immensely enjoyed it. You cab be sure that Kevin and me totally share your and Kokis’ views and feelings about todays art market and some famous artists.
    I personally didn’t know Sergio Kokis, but well, I am quite “inculte”.
    I like the first painting a lot. And I love Kokoshka, above all his portraits and landscapes. I was first confronted with his paintings in Ceret, in the Pyrenees…

  2. You are not at all inculte, miki! Common!

    Moi aussi j<avais pas entendu de lui que recemmenet (d<ailleurs combien d’ecrivains ou artistes Qu/becois tu a entendu parler?)

    How were you confronted with Kokoshka’s paintings (curious)? I like him too, he’es not your everyday painter of flowers…

    Ceret… Ceret… wasn’t Picasso painting over there, at the beginning of his career? It sounds marevelously picturesque, reminds me of contrebandiers et bandits, aventures et evasions…

    Glad you liked my post. Kokis has most of the merit…

  3. What a handsome lot of people he painted.

  4. Fascinating post, Danu! I haven’t had much direct experience with the art scene you describe, of museums, critics, art brokers, etc. I’m sure it is filled with the types of characters and personalities you describe. My experience is more local, with regional art organizations, small co-op galleries, open studio and art fair type events. Much less opportunistic and back-biting, I think. More my style.

    With art of this type, especially the last piece, I do wonder what would inspire someone to buy it or even hang it where it would be seen all the time. I can’t imagine wanting to see such work constantly – as you say, it’s quite raw and disturbing. So it raises the question for me as to what is the role of this type of work – what is it’s purpose and destiny? Perhaps there is some art that it is important to see, but maybe only once.

  5. Bill: Quite handsome, eh? Especially the 3 rd one…

    Bob: Those art market people I talk about are more of HIS , Bob. Myself, I do not have but a few meager contact in that world – true that my experiences are confirming his opinion and what I can read, here and there, do that also…

    For instance, there is a book called “L’Affaire Gachet” (the Gachet Case) where the author (whom I do not remember the name, for the moment) talked about the famous Dr. Gachet, Van Gogh’s “friend”… In fact, his book proves, quite convincingly, that that “friendship”, on which both le Dr. Gachet sen. and le Dr. Gachet jr (the 16 years old Pauld Gachet, at the death of Vincent in 1890) are 2 intelligent frauds and even more than that, that they donnated to the Louvre not only the true originals of Vincent (whom they were given – and took a lot – at the death of Vincent, by Theo) vbut also a few “Van gogh” of their own fabrication, including the 2nd portrait of Dr. Gachet (now at Orsay Museum)… So, that portrait would be a false, a phony! In the Louvre!?!

    As for Kokis own paintings, of course, you are right: very few people would put his Death on their bedrooms door (unless they are truly excentrics!) I don’t “like” his paintings either; but he is a true artist and I don”t think he intended to sell his work. He just HA to get it out of him…

    These days he’s, by a coincidence, making the news in Quebec, because he kind of changed some words with one of the main woman-politicians of Quebec (from the nationalist Parti Quebecois)…

  6. Of course, it’s : “He HAD to get it out…”

  7. DaNu_le, terifiant acest Kokis! imi aduce aminte de Bosch, de Goya, de … Kafka, de Munch, de nici nu mai stii unde sa-l incadrezi, fiindca e foarte personal si aparte!

    Si-mi aduce aminte, tangent si nebulos, de… “Glissando”, filmul lui Mircea Danieliuc: tot asha, o atmosfera terifianta…

  8. Da, Ovidiu, are o latura destul de terifianta… si culmea e ca are si un roman (pe care poate o sa ma invrednicesc sa-l traduc!) care se numeste Le fou de Bosch – Nebunul lui Bosch! In care personajul principal, un fel de mic functionar de Biblioteca, se recunoaste in Purtarea crucii de Bosch, in figura lui Jesus!

    Crezi ca potzi sa te interesezi un pic imprejur, fara graba, daca Kokis a fost tradus in romaneste si daca da, ce? Nu cred, dar cine stie?

  9. You might see this around on others blogs but I had to share it with you because it might mean something to you,

    Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters To A Young Poet,

    ”Go within and scale the depths of your being from which your very life springs forth. At its source you will find the answer to the question, whether you must write. Accept it, however it sounds to you, without analyzing. Perhaps it will become apparent to you that you are indeed called to be a writer. Then, accept that fate; bear its burden, and its grandeur, without asking for the reward that might possibly come from without. For the creative artist must be a world of his own and must find everything within himself and in nature, to which he has betrothed himself.”

  10. Yes, Michael, wise man Rilke! and what he says can resonate with me but maybe it’s more your case… I consider myself a painter and draughtman who, maybe, will write a novel some day… but you are a writer and I certaily hope you’ll get published and recognised. Maybe rich and famous, why not?

  11. Hi Danu!

    As i was a student in Maths & Physics in the University of Goettingen, Germany, I had a friend studying there too, but he was apinter too. With heart and soul. By the way he made his doctor in maths, if I remember well, and then, he gave up and dedicated himself only to painting, making real art studies. Later on he went back to maths as he grounded a family and needed a “real job” to aliment his family! Anyway it was him who introduced me to Kokoshka. Later on I bought his complete works, and spent even some time copying his portraits in form of fast, watercolour sketches.

  12. I did that too, Miki. Raising a family and all, as you know… but drawing and painting is – I hope – my true vocation and life… Even if Kokoshka, whom I admire for his originality and force, is maybe a direction – I mean the kind of surreal expresionism (no school, just tendency) – I should also exploite more… This “weird” vein I kind of neglige because (oh, my!) it’s not very saleble… and we have to live, do we? pay the bills?

  13. ovidiu stanomir

    DaNe, m-am uitat pe net si n-am gas’t in lb. romana decat 2-3 referintze la Sergio Kokis. De aici, trag concluzia ca (inca) nu a fost tradus la noi…

  14. mersi, ovidiu.

  15. fascinator!

  16. Sergio Kokis

    Man!!! I’ve just connected to your site and I’m glad you like my work. It’s great that you post my paintings. You can post them all if you like. Paintings like mine are to be seen, to be ponder about and to make people think about the world, not hanged in rooms of rich people as some of you friends may think. Anyway, if you liked The art of deception, you will sure like my last book, Le retour de Lorenzo Sanchez. It’s about an old painter, a last angry man. The art people hated it.
    Have a good 2009.
    Sergio Kokis.

  17. Anna Faedrich Martins

    Hi! I’m brazilian and I’ve seen your site… Oh, I liked it very much! I’m studying Kokis’ novels… I study literature in my master… I loooooove his writing!


    • Yes, Anna, Sergio is a great writer (not to forget painter, too!) I did read most of his novels in French (another performance… this is not his native tongue) and I found something great in each and every one. How is he considered in Brazil?

  18. Yes!! I loved your site [also] because of the pictures you’ve posted! It’s wonderful! He is a great painter, I agree with you! 🙂

    In Brazil, we only have “Le pavillion des miroirs” translated into Portuguese (A casa dos espelhos). I’ve read “La gare” in Spanish (La estácion – a friend of mine of Barcelone gave it to me) and now I’m reading “Un sourire blindé” in French.

    I intend to keep reading in French…

    I’m writing my project of doctorate, and Kokis is one of my object of study. I’m studying autofiction (genre).

    I think in Brazil he is becoming famous now, because we have some people studying his novels… I knew him last year!! In my master! Very recent!

    I’ve searched about him and there are some studies about his writing in Rio de Janeiro’s University… and here, where I live, Rio Grande do Sul / Porto Alegre, there are two professors that study his work, too.

    His writing is amazing. Je suis enchanté!!!!

    Thanks for asnswering me!

    And forgive me if I couldn’t give you the answer for your question, because it’s difficult to me talk about his reception in Brazil… I am “discovering” him… and also “recomending” for my students and friends!!

    Hugs, Anna.

  19. Thanks, anna!
    I<m not sure if you notice that Sergio himself wrote a comment above… I think you can try to write him personnaly… I<m sure he<ll be glad to hear from you!

  20. Anna Faedrich Martins

    Hi! I’ve seen it! Now I can look for Sergio Kokis because I passed in the Doctorate’s selection 🙂 Now I am sure that I will work with his literature. Thank you! Hugs, Anna.

  21. Congratulations, Anna! And succes! glad I could help, as little as I could…

  22. Reblogged this on Van Gogh and I and commented:

    It seems there are a lot of visitors for this post…

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