Paul Emmanuel :: Carbon

The only certainty is change. We try to hold onto memories in the hope of maintaining some coherence and continuity, but our memories are largely inventions, and they too change over time. We commemorate our invented pasts in an attempt to fix them in the present. We even impose them on the generations that come after us, linking them to the past through anniversaries, memorials, pilgrimages and rites of passage, in an attempt to bind their lives to ours. Ultimately we know more about the grand narratives we create about the past than the past itself. We cannot hold onto the substance of the past. It has been recycled, re-purposed and reinvented. Our memories are poor, distorted, sentimental and superstitious copies.

This exhibition is a body of works scratched by hand onto delicate carbon ‘paper’ or film that continue to explore my fascination with the tenuous nature of memory. These carbon ‘shadows’ are all metaphors for carbon copies and products of one of life’s greatest narratives – the carbon cycle. Carbon is an element in nature and the basic unit for all life. It is a key ingredient to heredity, the passing on of physical traits, like skin, eye and hair colour to offspring from parents and their ancestors. I am drawn to carbon’s metaphorical power to speak of what may have been physically and culturally transferred to me from my heritage.

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A commercially available piece of carbon ‘paper’ or film.

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Experiment with technique of scratching onto carbon ‘paper’ or film with a blade to create an image. The carbon film is left unrecognisable, looking like a delicate fabric or silk. Sometimes the film is pierced or lacerated by the blade, which I find interesting.