Salman Toor

Paradise Villas
Oil on Canvas
63×49 inches
Aatish Taseer’s collection

Salman Toor’s paintings are an eclectic mix of the exhausted categories of old and new. In them inspiration from Old Master painting melds seamlessly with imagery from South Asian mass-media and popular culture, including graphic paintings from local Lahore cinema billboards and contemporary advertising from Bollywood and fashion magazines.
With Toor’s whimsical way with paint, these scenes become much more than the literal amalgamation of their commercial sources. Instead, they stage their own private masquerade, cloaking the fantasies of their contemporary subjects with a veneer of museum-worthy Old Master virtuosity. The works, however, are not simply an exercise in technical skill, but rather the result of a complicated relationship with Western art history through which the artist has re-interpreted his own place in his native social fabric. For Toor, aspiring towards the vivid scenes and technical perfection of the Renaissance and Baroque masters remains both a feasible and contemporary impulse, capable of yielding uniquely odd interpretations of the entrenched tenets of South Asian culture and advertising, thus setting the work apart in an age of exhausted irony and innumerable iterations of commercial imagery.
Toor’s realism is selective, as can be seen in the fantastical luminosity of the colors and stylized anatomy of the figures in his Paradise Villas while visual clichés provide a running commentary on the absurd social subtexts of scene. The composition and type-cast figures (picked, in this case, from a Mobilink Ad) in this and other works are culled from the ubiquitous advertisements for jewelry, beauty products, dominating Pakistan’s urban media landscape.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Toor did his BFA (Painting and Drawing) with Honors from Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware and went on to receive a Masters in Fine Art (Painting) from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York in 2009. He lives and works in Brooklyn and Lahore.