Salman Toor and friends between 2 worlds

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983, Lahore, Pakistan.

 

From exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of (North) American Art in 2020/21 and the Baltimore Art Museum in 2022

 

 

Salman Toor has had a gift for drawing since he was young.

 

 

Tea, 2020, oil on canvas.

Salman Toor, Pakistani American born 1983,  On loan from a private collection to the Whitney Museum of American Art, 2020/21

The artist approaching his discomfited family at tea time. The tableau is imaginary.

 

 

Since he was young he also tried to tell his parents that he is gay.  His parents, he has said, accepted  this at length: tolerated is the word used.

 

Homosexuality has been an offence in his native country, Pakistan, since the Raj (Penal Code, 1860). 

 

 

 

Stone Throwers, 2021, oil on canvas. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983.  Loaned by the artist and his gallery to the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2022

 

 

 

New York is now also his country and he became a citizen of the US in 2019. He continues to visit Pakistan and his family from whom he is not estranged.

He also shows his work on the subcontinent.

 

 

 

Nightmare, 2020, Oil on plywood. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983. Private loan to the Whitney Museum of Art in 2020/21

 

 

Toor documents the in-between world of gay men of South Asian descent living between their native countries and the United States.

 

His work is a fictionalized rendition of their lives.

 

 

 

Bar Boy, 2019, oil on plywood.

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983. Whitney Museum of Art, NY

 

The works here he began to paint 3 years after his graduation from the Pratt Institute, NY in 2012. 

 

 

 

The Bar on East 13th, 2019, oil on canvas. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983.  Photo from the site of the artist’s gallery, Luhring Augustine, NY

 

 

 

This work is figurative; but this is not realism. 

 

The artist has chosen a near-cartoon type of figuration.

The scenes are from Toor’s life and those of his friends and acquaintances.

The figures could be Pierrots interacting with each other – the artist is well versed in the European classical tradition.

 

These figures are comedic, melancholic, full of pathos, without fight but also not in flight. 

 

Veering towards the figure of the clown transformed into South Asians and transplanted to our world.

 

 

 

Man with Face Creams and Phone Plug, 2019, oil on canvas. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983. Whitney Museum of Art, NY

 

 

Where the artist is representing himself or his friends, it is their states of mind which are his  subjects:

 

they are in liminal territory, wraith-thin; tentative;  wiry with apprehension.

 

Of course, you are free in New York to be whatever you wannabe.  Within (American) reason.

 

 

 

Four Friends, 2019, oil on board. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983. On display at the Whitney Museum in 2020/21

 

 

What is being represented then is a very specific form of that state of longing which the Welsh call hiraeth,

the Romanians dor

the northern Ethiopians tezeta

and the Portuguese-speaking peoples, saudade:

 

the extreme, pain-giving longing for something (most often: someone) necessary for your wellbeing which-who is absent from your life.

 

The absence may unbalance people’s lives such that they incorporate the imbalance into their gestures and movements, daily routines.

 

 

 

Puppy Play Date, 2019, oil on panel. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983.  Loaned by the artist to the Whitney Museum, NY in 2020/21. Photo provided by the artist to the press.

 

 

 

In this case, the longing is for an entire civilization of someones;

 

for acceptance in the land of their birth, in their family of nurture, in the religious traditions of their ancestors. 

Acceptance for the self as given, as created, as unchanging, as unchangeable. As is.  

Acceptance.

 

 

The Arrival, 2019. Oil on panel.

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983. Loan by the artist to the Whitney Museum, NY in 2020/21. Photo provided by the artist to the press.

 

 

I take it that many have identified with the artist’s work not because they are gay

but because they recognize the effects of the arbitrary, prejudiced, cruel, unjustified judgments which have tended to deform and narrow their lives.

 

 

 

 

Construction Men, 2021, oil on canvas. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983. Loaned to the Baltimore Museum of Art by the artist and his gallery

 

 

 

Discussing the comedic setting of his characters with an art critic, the artist said: 

 

“People like us don’t really belong anywhere.  You create your own safe space, and you need the relief of comedy.”

 

 

 

The Star, 2019, oil on wood.

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983. Whitney Museum of Art, NY

 

 

Toor’s paintings are in a wash of greens which represents for him an unstable wash of contradictory states of being:

 

desire, tension, transgression, glamour, danger, melancholy, and great and attractive value. 

 

 

 

 

The Latecomer, 2021, oil on panel. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983.  Private loan to the Baltimore Art Museum in 2021

 

 

The greens are the flickering light of nighttime, the artist has said, and also the gorgeousness of emeralds and jade.

This, then, is not the green of nature in sunlight but the shadow greens of a cloistered human world. 

 

 

 

Museum Boys, 2021, oil on panel.  Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983. 

On display at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2022

 

The artist imagines a meeting between two cultures, one a former colonizer in a mishmash of a Don Quixote costume;  and the second a former colonized limping in with one foot shod and one bare..

In the vitrine, a sleeping man with all kinds of objects including a urinal representing some of the ephemera of the colonial era.

 

 

 

 

Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe and Flag, 2022, oil on canvas. 

Salman Toor, Pakistani-American born 1983.  Loaned by the artist and his gallery to the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2022.

 

The artist’s definition of a fag puddle is a pile “of sissy things which I really like and was made to feel ashamed of when I was growing up.” 

 

The things in the puddle – a heap of treasure – which the Brown-Boy-with-Blonde-Hair is looking at contains elements which refer to Pakistan’s colonial history and the theft from the subcontinent of a great deal of wealth.  There are body parts, a feather boa, a high-heeled leg, a clown mask, a shoe, a flag, a mobile phone, a light bulb; cricket balls and a school tie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Salman Toor and friends between 2 worlds

  1. Please add the Romanian “dor” to “hiraeth”, “tezeta” and “saudade”.
    And thank you for your guidance into Salman Toor’s art!

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