Today’s featured artist for the UJ Art Gallery’s ‘CURE’, is visual artist Paul Emmanuel. His artwork, entitled Carbon Dad 2017, takes a look at how Emmanuel grapples with the intricacies of traditional masculine roles and how his own father played a part in his outlook on gender. Emmanuel’s father, a traditionally masculine force, struggled with his son’s “acting out” and tried to model his own culture and ways of being a man on Emmanuel in ways which he could not resonate with.
Taking inspiration from the Shroud of Turin, the famed religious artefact which bears the image of a man, believed by many to be that of Jesus, Emmanuel has similarly created a carbon imprint of his father. The Shroud is believed to have been “miraculously burned onto the fabric by an unknown mysterious flash of Divine light and energy,” Emmanuel recalls from his Catholic school upbringing. This idea of imprinting a body onto a surface for all to inspect and interrogate is key in Emmanuel’s work. Carbon Dad 2017 portrays the ethereal image of his father, making small marks and scratches on carbon paper in order to bring the figure to life. The drawing materialises on the paper echoing the mystical appearance of the image on the Shroud.
At the age of 93, months before he died, Emmanuel’s father reluctantly agreed to pose nude for a photograph that Emmanuel intended to use for an artwork. In those final months, what followed was a period of intimacy and reconciliation between father and son, as Emmanuel cared for his ailing father. Carbon Dad 2017 combines the uphill battle Emmanuel had with his father throughout his life regarding his femininity and artistic expression, with the mediation the two had in the last few months of his father’s life. The artwork becomes a “meditation on copies, imperfect copies vainly defying the inevitable impermanence of it all – a failed attempt to recapture a moment, inscribed into the black carbon of transfer paper,” Emmanuel states.