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Into the Light

Into the Light

Through scenes of homosocial bonhomie, tipsy merriment, languid repose, playtime and luncheons, Salman Toor presents a make-believe world of normalised and unalienated queer life, says Adwait Singh.

Salman Toor. The Confession

Salman Toor. The Confession. Oil on panel. 20” x 24”. 2019. Images courtesy of Nature Morte, New Delhi.

My immediate thought upon encountering Salman Toor’s works at his first solo exhibition in Nature Morte, New Delhi, held from the 16th of December to the 4th of January, was, “How pretty!” ‘Pretty’ of course acquires a special ring in the context of queer aesthetics. It reclaims shallowness as a field of intensified affect like an artificial diamond decorating the décolletage of a drag queen, catching and multiplying the jubilant glory of the wearer in its faux depths. ‘Pretty’ packs all the pith and poetry of an emoticon. What might otherwise come across as kitschy, in the hands of Toor transforms into self-aware camp, or a loving assemblage of styles from the past that become crucial in issuing queer subjectivities and aesthetics. ‘Pretty’ thus, despite its light application, forms the mainstream of queer desire and subjective validation. To say that Toor’s works are pretty, is then to summon a wealth of delicate queer feelings hid under the appropriated superficiality of the moniker. And it is with a coterie of bubbling emotions and the knowledge of secret joys that a queer gaze grazes the textures of Toor’s plushily rendered turtle necks, denims and vintage jackets enwrapping the languid bodies of his subjects nursing stolen moments of same-sex intimacy.