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C.K. Rajan

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1960, Kerala, India
Lives and works in Hyderabad, India

C.K. Rajan is an Indian contemporary artist from the Kerala Radical Group. His initial work was based on collages where he portrayed incongruous elements together to create a cohesive whole. His later work focuses on surreal sculptures.



M.A. in Painting, University of Hyderabad, India


Studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda

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He uses politically charged motifs to communicate ideas.

C.K. Rajan's collages function as an incisive tool for political commentary. Made between 1992 and 96, they record in a tangential way the changes that took place in India during the first years of economic liberalisation to the physical as well as the social fabric of urban centres in particular. It focuses on the uneven pace of development within cities, where the co-existence of pre-industrial, industrial and post industrial culture has produced startling often uncomfortable juxtapositions.

In the first image, from “Mild Terrors”, he depicts the military industrial complex that is slowly changing the cityscapes of India. In the second Untitled work, he depicts the decaying rubble of a house juxtaposed with a glamorous woman in a welcoming posture in front.

C.K. Rajan, 2007, collage, 4.3 x 6”

C.K. Rajan, Untitled, 1996, collage

His work derives from absurdist and surrealist influences.

Rajan's later collages used black humour, absurdist and surrealist influences. In the image of the girl combing her hair, part of his collection titled “Mild Terrors”, he invokes a surreal space which seems to exist on its own. Similarly, in the second, we can find a layout that can be classified as absurdist, or unnatural. In the sheer randomness of articles selected for the collage, C.K. Rajan triumphs in his reality which the viewers escape into with these images.

C.K. Rajan, from “Mild Terrors”, 1996

C.K. Rajan, from “Mild Terrors”, 1996, collage, 4.3 x 7”

His work tries to incorporate two incongruous images to create a cohesive whole

C.K. Rajan's collages with their cut and paste of images gathered from newspapers and magazines have a formal beauty about them, a delicacy and precision and at the same time - in an avant-garde tradition of collage. In these works, the artist responds to a visual world that seems to have become unreadable, and tries to interpret it through juxtaposition of symbols and motifs. They are mixes of abstract art and the figurative, both sketchy but legible as something: a figure, a structure, or a word. In this way, the artist sets up the possibility of a narrative but simultaneously negates it, leaving the viewer to speculate.

C.K. Rajan, from “Mild Terrors”, 1996, collage, 4.2 x 5.3”

His work focuses on indigenous ancient cultures in India

Some of his works focus on re-invoking symbols from India's past and relating them to the contemporary present through substitution. He places figures from ancient India and then reincorporates them into the current state of their historical spaces to show the passage of time, and create a time gap of sorts by highlighting the passage.

In the first image from Mild Terrors, the Bharatnatyam temple dancer is depicted as towering over the temple. In the second untitled work, we find Vasco da Gama on the beach off Kappad where he had first landed.

C.K. Rajan,  from “Mild Terrors”, 1996, collage, 4.7 x 7.5”

C.K. Rajan, Untitled, 1999, collage, 3.2 x 4.7”

His recent sculptures are, like his art, surrealist

C.K. Rajan's latest sculptures focus on more surreal imagery- as can be seen in the clock with two elongated hands, signifying perhaps the evanescence of time, while at the same time, suggesting a timelessness due to the sheer inability of the clock to use the hands. In the second image, titled "Restless Iron Box", Rajan has created a box made out of iron, shaped like a iron, which doubles up as a chest when opened.

C.K. Rajan, Time Running Out, 2010, wood, glass and iron, 78.5 x 205 cm

C.K. Rajan, Restless Iron Box, 2010, wood and iron, 21.5 x 22.5 cm

His art subverts the dominant paradigm to create images that shock and awe

C.K. Rajan's collages often feature politicized spaces and politicized symbols through subversion of the dominant paradigm. For example, in the first image, one can see the rainwater flooded streets which are being parodied as oil - stating that the value of a resource depends not on its necessity, but on its marketability- an extremely political statement that exposes the politics of economy. In the second, one sees a giant disembodied hand above two overflowing rubbish bins, exposing human waste and the negligence of hygiene in civilized beings as humans.

C.K. Rajan, Untitled, 1996, collage

C.K. Rajan, Untitled, 1996, collage