C.K.RAJAN, A Low Angle View of Hell, 2013-14, oil on canvas, 11.5 x 14.5 cm / 4.5 x 5.7 in


The artist C.K. Rajan has produced a series of eighty-one small paintings. These are modestly sized self-contained works that achieve an affective intensity with limited means. Each includes the same basic elements – a painterly background suggesting some type of context or scenario onto which the artist has inserted an element of figuration. The figurative elements consist mostly of singular details, beautifully rendered, sketchy, but at the same time just about legible as something: a figure, a structure, or a word. Like flares that can fizzle out to nothing, the artist sets up the possibility of a narrative but simultaneously resists and negates it. You might simply approach them through their poetic register. They are moody but with a black humour that crackles at the margins.

They are downbeat but at the same time because of their beauty and formal ingenuity produce pleasure.??You could try to read them in terms of a political narrative, particularly if you recall earlier works by the artist such as the collages made in the 1990s that were in part a critique of the advent of economic liberalization in India. In these present works any political element is immanent, more a matter of tone than of content, something which is felt rather than asserted. Occasionally they recall the language of political cartoons, where text bolsters image, but they are intentionally without verbal punch or deliberate meaning. ?

Each work in this series has a title, and while four paintings are Untitled their listing as a series, suggests intentionality. The titling of the works and the use of letters within the picture frame, both as free standing elements in the landscape or speech bubbles, appear to be part of the game of decipherment that the artist plays with the viewer. The words that appear in these landscapes augment the meaning of the works but often in such a literal way as to render this meaning ridiculous.

The scenes depicted in these paintings are filmic in nature – highways at night, aerial views of landscapes, and the exhibition’s title Classified: For Your Eyes Only, suggesting a cinematic narrative of subterfuge and state secrets.

C.K. Rajan studied Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda, and S.N. School of Art, University of Hyderabad. His works have been shown in several important exhibitions, including Documenta XII in Kassel (2007); ‘Santhal Family’, MuKHA, Antwerp (2008); ‘Art of Modern India’, IVAM, Valencia (2009); ‘Perspective on Collage’, ‘The Photographers’ Gallery, London (2013); ‘5 Rooms’, Robert Miller Gallery, New York (2013); and ‘Considering Collage’, Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai (2013). The artist lives and works in Hyderabad.


C.k. Rajan