Manuel behind KiKo


KiKo in his studio.

Manuel Fernandez, alias KiKo, is a French artist born in 1985 in Martigues, the small town near Marseille dubbed the “Venice of Provence”. It is the inspiration behind his Mediterranean colours and more particularly the burning orange that infuses many of his works.

KiKo has always had a fondness for drawing and painting. As a child, drawing came to him as naturally as breathing. In a single assertive stroke, he would pencil emotions that his words did not carry. Undeniably, he had a gift for drawing, and for his teachers, his way forward was clear. But art was not quite part of the picture in this family of sailors, whose chief passion was for the sea and fishing. KiKo thus hopped onto the family tuna boat, trading his canvases for fishing nets; he certainly wasn’t going to jump ship!

Living the harsh life of a sailor, constantly brought back in line by the sea, KiKo built himself an imaginary universe where a childhood suspended in flight would inspire all his work. He would never stop drawing childhood.

In 2017, when he decided to give himself over entirely to his passion for art, he symbolically chose “KiKo”, his childhood nickname, as his alias.

Though often seen as the heir apparent to pop/street art, KiKo is in fact most deeply moved to by Amedeo Modigliani and his ability to bring out his models’ soul. Not surprisingly, the artist is fascinated by the children in Modigliani’s work; old souls that have retreated into their inner world with all its secrets, eager to flee a reality yet too heavy for their shoulders.

Port-Vendres or the childhood of KiKo.

KiKo at the opening of his solo exhibition at the Marciano Contemporary gallery.

 The analogy with KiKo’s “logo children” paintings is obvious: this is a series that questions our consumer society and calls attention to a generation of children who will project into adulthood the melancholy of a childhood they were never able to live.

Since 2017, “Les Enfants de Kiko” have become globetrotters: from Shanghai to Miami, and on to Europe, they can be found in the homes of collectors and influencers as well as in many art galleries. Each year, they are also featured in contemporary art fairs in France and Europe.

Where we slip into KiKo’s private world and unlock some secrets of his creative process

The studio

While KiKo shows endless inspiration and already-recognised talent, it is his very personal technique with multi-coloured Indian inks that seals his artistic DNA.

 KiKo draws in charcoal, freehand onto the canvas, driven by the urgency of creation. He feeds off this adrenaline to relive what graffiti artists must have felt standing before the forbidden wall. Each drawing is unique, the artist refusing to use a stencil. He strives to ensure that his line retains the simplicity and purity of a child’s drawing.

 On the sketch done in charcoal, he plays with a large palette of multi-coloured Indian inks, applied by brush, on canvases.

KiKo is one of the very few artists who can master Indian inks on large canvases.

If Indian ink has become his trademark, he also gives them a new contemporary breath.

 Although he finishes off his canvases with a layer of evenly poured resin to give a glossy finish to his paintings, KiKo is quick to emphasise that what really matters lies under the varnish of appearance. The importance is the child.


(re) View works by KiKo