French painter Jean Marc Calvet recounts his incredible life story as a street kid turned Cannes bodyguard who abandoned his family, robbed a Miami mobster, hid out in Central America and at the age of 38 overcame addictions through an extraordinary metamorphosis in which he began to paint. That was seven years ago. Now his intricate paintings sell for five figures, but he remains desperate to reconcile with his son he left behind.
The powerful, tortured paintings of French artist Jean Marc Calvet sell from $20,000 a piece, he has major solo exhibitions in New York, yet until 7 years ago he had never touched a paintbrush. In fact, art was the last thing on his mind when, aged 38, he was on the run in Central America with a large sum of stolen money. There, haunted by his past, Calvet decided that death was his only way out.
This is one man’s extraordinary story of redemption as he embarks on a journey to make peace with his past. A man who lived a dark and violent life, who via a terrifying trip to hell and back was given a second chance.
“All I ever wanted was a family, the person I turned myself into didn’t want one, didn’t need one.” And this persona he created was all bad. Calvet spent his life on a course of self-destruction, more often than not trashing anything and anyone in his path – including his own 6 year old son whom in 1996 in France, he abandoned without a word. He neither saw nor spoke to him again.
“See you next Saturday” were the last words Calvet said to his son before he disappeared. “See you next Saturday” – words that have haunted him every day for over a decade. Clues as to how he could do such a cruel and cowardly thing to the person he loved most in the world lie in his deeply troubled past.
Abused street kid, Foreign Legionnaire, vice cop, professional bodyguard, underground thug – Calvet is a cat with many lives, all harrowing and disturbing. Then in 2002 in Costa Rica, he arrived at the end of the road. Lost and damned, besieged by shame and self-hatred, he bought the last house at the end of a cul-de-sac, shut himself in and refused all contact with the outside world. Fuelled by obscene quantities of crack and alcohol, he believed the end would arrive quickly. It didn’t.
Calvet failed in his mission to die. Instead he descended into a psychological and physical hell. Hallucinating and paranoid, he went to war with himself, destroying the house as he tried to escape the demons that were tormenting him. Through 9 months of self-incarceration, he shrunk from an obese 130 kilos to a skeletal 47. Then one violent night, Calvet’s trajectory changed forever. Amongst all that he hurled against the walls that night, including himself, was a stack of rusty industrial paint pots that he had discovered under the stairs. Following hours of madness he collapsed exhausted and found himself gazing at a wall covered in blood and paint. And he understood the language. He saw anger, hate, violence, death… and he felt an overwhelming sense of release. He had found a weapon to defeat the person he had become. Something inside had awoken. He had found the way out. He began to paint like a man possessed.
5 years on, he is being presented to the international art world as a significant new talent and sells his work for thousands. However, Calvet has still to face his final demons. The time has come to face up to the biggest crime of his life. His son is about to turn 18 years old. He must go and find him...