Reimagining His Roots, East and West

April 26, 2016 – by Julia Stone '16

Salman Toor ’06

Salman Toor ’06 still remembers when his teenage passion for art grew even stronger, during his first art history class at Ohio Wesleyan with Carol Neuman deVegvar, Frank L. & Eva L. Packard Professor of Fine Arts.

“I knew a terribly interesting new door was opening for me,” Toor says of the experience. “Western Art History began to ignite my imagination, and I fancied myself an apprentice to the masters of European painting such as Giovanni Bellini and Titian.”

Toor graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OWU and went on to receive his MFA in painting from New York’s Pratt Institute in 2009. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1983, he now lives in Brooklyn, creating art that explores the ambiguities of living in the East and West.

He views himself as a wanderer, travelling between boundaries. Toor is inspired by the dissonance, understanding, and confusion of leaving his community of origin.

From October to December 2015, Toor displayed his second solo show at the Aicon Gallery in New York City. This exhibition, entitled “Resident Alien,” mostly comprises large-scale paintings.

Hyperallergic, a forum for radical perspectives on contemporary art and culture, noted the exhibit’s paintings “envision the possibility of a new world that comingles the East and the West and projects a third space of harmony.”

In the real world, to be an artist doesn’t just mean one can stay in one’s garage, hidden away from the world, painting.

Salman Toor ’06

Toor is working on a new body of work for an exhibition in Karachi, Pakistan. He is also illustrating a graphic novel entitled The Electrician with his friend, Alexandra Atiya, a writer. The novel, immersed in the supernatural, follows the inner lives of a middle-class family in Lahore over the course of a week, displaying the social conflict in contemporary Pakistani life.

“In the real world, to be an artist doesn’t just mean one can stay in one’s garage, hidden away from the world, painting,” says Toor. He believes that artists, despite their usual daydreaming nature, must be able to plan their futures and engage with the world.

Toor likes not knowing exactly what he is going to do next in his work, so he makes decisions quickly during composition. In his lively, colorful paintings that are both intimate and intensely relatable, Toor blends the meditative element of painting with the element of risk.

“With every painting I feel like I finally have the hang of it, but I begin anew every single time,” Toor says.