C. K. Rajan

Mild Terrors II


Not on display

C. K. Rajan born 1960
Printed papers on paper
Unconfirmed: 56 × 96 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the South Asia Acquisitions Committee 2016


This is one of a group of ten collage works in Tate’s collection from Rajan’s larger series Mild Terrors II (Tate T14463T14472). They followed on from the series Mild Terrors, also begun in 1991. The works in Mild Terrors II were made in the artist’s native India over a five-year period between 1991 and 1996, using images cut out from newspapers and glossy magazines. Such material proliferated in India in the 1990s, a period that saw major social transformation as the local economy opened up to the forces of globalisation. After the end of the cold war in the early 1990s, capitalist forces began to transform global markets, targeting local consumers in countries such as India with Western products and advertising campaigns.

In these collages Rajan has transposed images of body parts and consumer goods onto local Indian landscapes and urban scenes depicting both historic buildings and newer housing developments. The curator and historian Grant Watson has described the effect of these collages: ‘By cutting and juxtaposing images of different kinds and scales from popular magazines, the artist produced a series of clever and surreal depictions of the disparities and forms of alienation produced in a neo liberal economy and through the existing side-by-side of tradition and modernity.’ (Watson 2015, pp.5–6.) The paradoxical title of the work hints at the underlying perniciousness of economic development, the negative side of which is not always visible in the mainstream media.

Rajan used both colour and black and white newspaper images for these collages. He would generally start with a background image pasted onto white A4-sized paper and then add fragmentary images of body parts, often female, to the background scene. Glossy arms or pairs of legs appear within images of landscapes under development, recording an era of massive urban transformation. The disembodiment heightens the sense of the impact this rapid change might have on the ordinary Indian. In one image, a full figure appears, head hung downward as a massive arm leans on a metal structure in an industrial landscape. In another, a woman’s headless torso appears as a monument framed within a circular garden. A toned, fair-skinned and athletic western body tears through the clean lines of a housing block, which appears again, this time with a man’s legs superimposed upon it, clothed in sharply pressed trousers and polished shoes. A giant arm reaches for a clunky ‘Ambassador’, the only car available in India when the economy was closed, soon to be replaced by cheaper Japanese and American models.

Collage was widely practiced in India by artists such as Benode Behari Mukherjee in the late 1950s (see, for instance, Mukherjee’s Two Triangles 1957, Tate T14326, and Lady with Fruit 1957, Tate T14329). However, in their attempt to challenge common perceptions by juxtaposing disparate material from popular culture, Rajan’s works relate more to the surrealist collages of European artists like Max Ernst (1891–1976) or the pop art experiments of artists such as Richard Hamilton (1922–2011) and Martha Rosler (born 1943). Rajan is also a painter and sculptor and was part of a group at the Fine Arts Department at the Maharaja Siyajirao University in Baroda that called itself the ‘Radical Painters and Sculptors Association’, which included K.P. Krishnakumar and Anita Dube. The group only lasted from 1987 to 1989 due to Krishnakumar’s early death, but it freed young artists to break from and resist the narrative painting then popular in Baroda and work with contemporary themes and materials. After the association’s dissolution Rajan abandoned painting and produced the collage series Mild Terrors and Mild Terrors II. These series have been described by critic Shanay Jhaveri as ‘fiercely critical of the rapacious and alienating effects of economic liberalization on contemporary Indian society’ (Jhaveri 2015, p.20).

Further reading
C.K. Rajan, exhibition catalogue, Documenta 12, Kassel 2007, p.136.
Grant Watson, Small Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai 2015, pp.3–12.
Shanay Jhaveri, ‘Indian Satire’, Frieze, no.170, April 2015, p.20.

Nada Raza
April 2015

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