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I Fall Into You : Queer Social Intimacy in Salman Toor's Paintings

Salman Toor, ’Four Friends’, 2019, oil on panel, 40x40, (image:

There is no hesitation when I am with the people I love. There is no afterthought. There is no thought. There is just the movement of bodies. So it goes in the oil paintings of Salmon Toor. People moving people. Twisting and turning—strangers, friends, and lovers intertwine. Contorting their limbs in a sweet, sweet embrace, these men hold each other from afar. Their arms float; their legs sink. In unison, their bodies make a whole. One man on his knees, one man on his feet. His torso leans in, his torso leans out. One man's hands up, one man's hands down. The creases of his shirt and pants bounce. The puffs of his silk sleeves glide to the right as he moves to the left; his bandana levitates. To the air—surrender! Buoyance! These men are caught in song and dance!

Steering the strokes of paint are the rhythms of their bodies—dabs of green hues ascend and descend. Following the silhouette in the centre is a mute, pale fluorescence. Blur-like, these short, fast dashes are marks of his movement—the past unravelling into the present. Such a depiction of motion is an ode to the Impressionists of the late nineteenth century, harkening to the works of Berthe Morisot and co. Their lines and contours dematerialise in the name of perception. Though, it is the line between inside and outside oneself that dissolves in the works of Toor.

Intimacy, it is the act of giving one's private thoughts and feelings away! Dionysus, these men share their pleasure with each other, you, and I! On their tables are allusions to ecstatic rites: the viridian incandescence of the lamp shines on a nearly empty glass of red wine and a plate of grapes. These interiors are made for them to indulge outside of forests, fields, and parks. Though if the Garden of Eden was pleasure without shame, Toor reaps flora and fauna in these green shades. As smoke rises from volcanoes, these noxious gases fill the space. In it, the men are somnambulatory. They frolic lightly. À la Matisse, they circle in joy; in abandon, heads fall onto each other’s shoulders, hands clasp and clutch, eyes close in deep, deep feeling.

Skinny, hairy, brown bodies—-Toor moves them and, thus, imbues them with subjectivity.

New canons are new shapes. These bodies are new shapes of beauty. Together, they are new shapes of intimacy.

Salman Toor, ’After Party’, 2019, oil on panel, 36x24 (image:

Salman Toor is a painter, born in Lahore and living and working in New York City. You can find out more about him through his website.

Ajeet Khela is a writer living between St Andrews and London, finishing his undergraduate degree in Art History and Philosophy. You can find him on Instagram.


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