Thursday, 6 June 2013

An Interview with Jean Marc Calvet

To celebrate the French release of Dominic Allan's 2011 documentary Calvet, we present for the first time our complete interview with the subject of the film, French artist Jean Marc Calvet. Entretien egalement disponible en français ici.

Image: Martin Parsons/Fohnhouse

Could you explain to me something of your journey towards being an artist ?


Yes, just a précis!

Well, I had nothing to do with the art world. I was a good for nothing, travelling through different countries... Then, one day, I decided to die. I locked myself into a house and I started to drink lots and take lots of drugs. Eventually I was down to seven stone and was close to death.

Then I found, in the house - a little house I had bought in Costa Rica - some pots of paint which had hardly been used, locked away. I started painting the walls with my finger, and for eight or nine months – I locked myself away for nine months without seeing anybody, without talking to anybody – I painted the entire house. I burnt the furniture and used to wood to write on the walls…

There was a sort of frenzy. As if I had convinced myself that I could vomit out what I had inside. At the start it was really that, vomiting. Now it’s different, but at the start that's how it was.

At the start painting helped you to run from your problems?

No, it was really just fighting with the walls. Everything that was on the walls was a language that I understood, and it was something that had been within me and had been expelled. In a couple of minutes it returned, so I resumed painting.

It wasn’t easy…

It’s the only method I have to allow myself to live normally.

So it was bit by bit that you escaped your problems?

Ah no, I haven’t escaped. It allowed me to combat my problems…and to no longer need to escape myself. Because I escaped myself with alcohol and drugs, and that was done with. For me it’s a way of having an emotional stability and to be able to live normally like you. My life was depression, euphoria, depression, euphoria. Painting, art, creating, that just allows me to live normally.

You always have faces in your work, sometimes hidden or half hidden – what does this symbolise? Is there a reason behind it?

No…I don’t know! I give my brain free rein. I just draw the first lines and then the rest arrives bit by bit. Normally a painting takes two or three weeks. Here [in Sheffield] it has taken a day, a day and a half, which makes a change, but otherwise it’s the same. It’s a sort of frenzy, of collective hysteria. It’s what I see on television, people walking, people running, Iraq…

You put all that in? A mixture of life, basically?

Exactly. Without seeking to give a story or a sense. It would be like trying to explain life, and I don’t know much about life. I’m more of a witness. I don’t give solutions. I don’t say ‘I’m painting a picture about war, I’m painting a picture about love’. No. In each painting there is war, love, sex…everything.

And anything?

Everything and anything! It’s like in life, what we have around us: we have anything and everything!

Why did you leave France in the first place?

I left for different reasons. I had always moved around. I changed countries to try and change faces. I thought that by changing countries I could leave my problems behind, but that isn’t how it works. We always carry our problems with us, and multiply them.

Thank you very much!

There will be an exhibition of Calvet's works, entitled 'Redemption', at the Mark Hachem Gallery in Paris from the 6th to the 21st June 2013

Interview and Translation by MP

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