Carl Gopalkrishnan: Biography

Carl Gopal 2019 Perth

My full name is Carl Gopalkrishnan but people know me as 'Carl Gopal'. I'm a British born Australian of duel nationality who grew up in Sweden before my family settled in Australia in 1974. My Indian and Chinese parents were from Singapore and Malaysia, so I have family and cultural ties to many different places.

I am an independent artist who doesn't depend on arts funding for my career, instead I have developed my writing skills to find work in policy in the community sector. As a result, I get to learn a lot about people's lived experience, hold to my creative vision and values, and have the choice to follow my muse. This is both a privilege and challenge and now so normal I can't imagine changing my practice.

It's difficult for me to define my paintings,
I think they're allegorical works, they
document private, even hidden histories

I've been working mostly in acrylic paint, mixed media, photography and printmaking since 1987. As a visual artist I reflect on how we express human consciousness across time, place and culture. These are really questions that drive me personally more than any attempt at theory. 

I'm curious about the world, so I use my art to investigate my spiritual journey. Combining research, reflection and intuitive practice, my paintings are often inspired by history, literature, poetry, mythology and current events. Taking about actually painting itself, I tend to avoid, because it's very hard to pin down, and chance plays a huge role as does not over planning. 

I've continued to work in acrylic paint on canvas, developing my own language for mixing genres and cultures on my canvas.  I'm interested in that we are swamped by images from the internet and how that has become our common global language. I will take images out of their context and re-interpret them.

\Acrylic is a medium I have lived with for decades and it has different character to oils. I started using then because I'm a bit allergic to oil paint solvents. Now I can't think of using anything else it's so natural. I've also worked in printmaking, drawing, pastel and photography and in recent years added acrylic spray/aerosol to my works. Mixing up mediums and styles to communicate a new reality, that's what drives me.

I've drawn and painted since forever. My earliest influences were American Folk Art, Outsider Art, Surrealism and Punk posters of the 1970s.  I find it difficult to define my own work but if I was to try, I would say I'm most comfortable seeing my paintings as allegorical works. 

I know my art investigates my spiritual journey and
I like to method act my research

People who read history seem to like my art and I've collaborated with literary journals and collaborated outside the Arts to evolve my work. In recent years I was seeking out the light in the shadows of modern conflict such as how our post 9/11 world affect our freedoms, America's cultural/political role in our imagination and now themes aroundour algorithmically-changing culture. I'm also a history graduate,  and I get immersed in alternative histories from myth, emotion and the lives of other artists. 

Early on, I started my creative career as a typographer and designer in the 1980s. Quite by accident, in 1991, I developed as a painter within my inner city art community in Northbridge, Western Australia. I went into the Bridge Gallery, a small experimental space on William St to get something framed, and walked out with a date for my first solo exhibition. 

I've been told I'm more of a quiet observer than a performer. My paintings are either intimate stories or epic metaphors layered with symbolism and ideas I've researched. Sometime I use my dreams and, at times, my relationships. At the core of everything is my faith in something beyond, which isn't captured by the word "religion".

At the core of everything is my faith
in something beyond,
which isn't captured by the word "religion"

In my day job I work with communities and speak with many people with lives that inspire me and bring me down to earth. Doing that work has given me great respect for the rich, private worlds that the least attention-seeking souls inhabit. A more nuanced and real world in some ways. Yet I always try and add some humour and levity along the way with even the most harrowing observations. 

I have had an odd and independent career, connecting with fascinating people through little articles and features in magazines and journals of poetry, politics, and culture while exhibiting in Australia and group projects in other countries. I've remained largely self-funded and self-taught, which is both really challenging financially but incredibly liberating in that I always focus on the art.

Despite many challenges, my art practice still vitalises me and give my life meaning. It has a deep spiritual significance for me and I feel very fortunate.




Read about my My Amnesty Approach to Copyright on my Copyright & Collaboration page.

Contact Carl

All text and images on this website are Copyright © to Carl Gopalkrishnan 2019 unless referenced or credited to other creators


Dr Kyle Grayson24-12-2017, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Newcastle University
"Carl's art is profoundly unique, using mixed methods and materials to create arresting images that captivate viewers. Dream-like in their presentation, and often focusing on representing the familiar in unfamiliar ways, his paintings capture moods through Carl's use of colour, symbolism, and light. I was very excited to be able to feature his 2011 painting 'There is Nothing Like a Drone' on the front cover of my recent book 'The Cultural Politics of Targeted Killing'. Feedback I have received about the cover has been excellent and the image has helped to distinguish the book from others. Carl's art work thus not only provided a memorable image that captured the essence of the book but it also contributed to giving it a distinctive identity. People continue to comment about the painting and ask me about its provenance. Such ongoing interest is a testament to Carl's talents as an artist".  (read post)
Tyler Gore,  20-11-2012, Creative Director, Literal Latte NYC
"Carl Gopalkrishnan is a highly creative and highly skilled fine artist and illustrator. We featured his work “Elsewhere 2″ as the cover illustration for the June 2009 issue of Literal Latte (a journal of prose, poetry and art), and included a large gallery of his paintings, drawings and pen & ink work in the same issue. Carl has a unique and compelling artistic vision, and all of us at Literal Latte very much look forward to seeing new developments in his career as an artist. We are proud to have featured him." [Literal Latte Feature]

Tikkun Daily, Laura Beckman,  18-06-11, Arts Writer, Tikkun Daily [Magazine], Berkley, CA, USA

"Artist Carl Gopal’s interests are expansive, but he is by no means a dilettante. He is gifted with an ability to analyze current events in the context of the “big picture” without getting overwhelmed, weaving together schools of thought as diverse as popular culture and politics, spirituality and quantum physics.  He is afraid that amid the exhilaration of rapid scientific advancement, we are losing the sense of humble awe at the universe that spurred our curiosity in the first place".  [more]

The Hon Jocelynne A. Scutt,  26-012-17, Human Rights Lawyer/former High Court Judge/Academic, Filmaker and Barrister at English Bar, London. UK 26-012-17

"Carl Gopalkrishnan is an artist extraordinaire! His work is visually striking, his imagination informs his artwork - splendidly, and his artistry is reflective of his capacity to incorporate political themes into his visual renditions. He works in a timely manner, too - without in any way hampering the visual appeal and depth of artistry. I recommend Carl Gopalkrishnan highly". [more]

John Hyde,  17-11-2017, UNODC and UNDP Pacific Anti-Corruption Specialist. International Media and Innovation Mentor for the UN, Chair of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC)

"An amazing artist. Incisive and sensitive work. Hope to see more of your work Carl.".