Shreyas Karle in Residence at Gasworks

Post by Elisa Adami

Entering in Shreyas Karle’s studio at Gasworks, you have the feeling of accessing a sort of capsule where time has been suspended. An emphatic sign reading “Time stops!” is superimposed on a map of the city of London hanged on the wall. This interruption of the ordinary flow of life is according the Indian artist the condition within which an artist’s residence develops. In a space geographically and temporally displaced, artists have the opportunity to re-invent and re-negotiate their practice, to challenge established working methodologies and deep-rooted habits. In this space out of time, Karle has experimented with time itself, playing with its convoluted directions and the unexpected parallelisms of its different trajectories.

Session of group criticism, Scarborough Summer School, Yorkshire, c.1956 © Estate of Tom Hudson

Session of group criticism, Scarborough Summer School, Yorkshire, c.1956  © Estate of Tom Hudson

During his residency at Gasworks, Karle has looked into the Basic Design movement, a new and radical approach to training in art schools which revolutionized art education across Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. Inspired by an ongoing exhibition at Tate Britain entitled BP Spotlight: Basic Design, the artist developed his research further by investigating the National and Education Archives in Yorkshire. Far from taking the form of a chronologically ordered survey, his research has branched in multiple directions, tracing similarities between Basic Design’s ideas and the pedagogical methods which were developed independently in India during the same period. The parallelisms discovered by the artist attest the existence of a common need for a renewal in the art educational structures, which was perceived almost simultaneously in different geographical areas. Fascinated by these distant affinities, Karle has travelled upstream, back in time, in order to locate the common source at the basis of these impulses of reform. At the crossroads of the different lines, he found the experience of the Bauhaus and two figures in particular: Paul Klee and Vasilij Kandinskij.

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The a-systemic patterns emerged from this unconventional research have been visually mapped into a not-linear time-line, a tangled construction which covers two walls of the studio. This mazy structure registers unexpected connections and unnoticed parallelisms, offering us an image of time made of folds and creases, whirls and vortexes, bends and crossings. The knotty lines and converging/diverging arrows are dotted with the faces of the protagonists of the different movements: Paul Klee and Vasilij Kandinskij, Victor Pasmore and Tom Hudson, Gurdieff and P.D. Ouspensky just to name a few. Researching on their lives and thoughts, Karle has observed the mysterious correspondences of parallel lines which never met, a sort of curious kinship developed without any documented contact. This shows how history not only repeats itself, but also enigmatically connects to people in all time periods and places.

Another interesting aspect of this not-linear time-line, it’s the way in which it represents not only an entangled subject of research, but also the randomness and accidents of the process of research itself. Information on the Basic Design movement, references to Indian art schools, and mentions of the protagonists of the Bauhaus experience are interspersed with other readings, books and novels, which even though not thematically correlated with the research, have shaped it, suggesting unpredicted associations and new possible interpretations. Kafka’s, Umberto Eco’s, Murakami’s books appear side by side to Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketches. These inclusions/incursions show how the creative research is neither a linear process nor an aseptic activity detached from life, but rather a practice which benefits from external fertilization and nurturing.

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Besides a not-linear time-line, to represent the randomness of research and the twisted nature of time, the artist created a stop-motion animation, entitled Re-Introducing the Introduction. The cinematic montage and the collage-like composition of the shots contribute to create a sort of constructivist poetry, celebrating randomness and asynchronicity.

Overall, Karle’s use of archival research is not so much historical and retrospective, as prospective. In the Bauhaus and Basic Design legacy, and in the pedagogical methodologies and theories which were elaborated within these movements, he aims to retrieve still relevant and applicable values for the contemporaneity.


Working across disciplines, Shreyas Karle uses formats such as illustration, collage, video, publications, sculptural forms and collaborative community projects. Although often referencing the mundane and everyday, Karle’s work uses absurdity and visual puns to reflect upon more serious social and psychological issues and situations. He is also the director of CONA, an artists-run space and venue for artists residencies in Mumbai.

Visit Gasworks website.