In Tate Modern
A journey through painting and photography
- Salman Toor born 1983
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 2503 × 2456 mm
- Purchased 2019
Salman Toor’s large-scale oil painting 9pm, The News 2015 depicts a family sitting around the dining table following their evening meal. The scene focuses on the silent exchange between the two male protagonists, the patriarch, seated at the head of the table smoking a cigarette, and the son who sits in the nude, vulnerable to the external influences of the media, class and religion that have congregated behind him. A television screen showing the nine o’clock news, as the title indicates, looms over the son’s shoulder amidst comic-book style ‘flash’ signs, empty speech bubbles and splashes of black oil. The figure of the family’s disregarded servant and the towering minarets of a mosque dominate the background. The other members of the family sit oblivious to these invasions, including the female figure at the left of the scene, also presented nude perhaps to indicate her congruent vulnerability. Toor has described the work as a ‘queer self/family portrait in a conservative Islamic context’ (unpublished artist’s statement for Aicon Gallery, New York, October 2015). He has explained that he considers the anonymous figures in the background and to the right side of the scene as ‘ghosts’ of his native Pakistani culture: ‘I see these “ghosts” as agents of change and enablers of a reinvention of self and belonging. They are imagined ancestors and actors in a fractured, nonlinear history in which an imagined past is present now, a past that is both disruptor and enabler.’ (Quoted in artnet 2015, accessed 28 March 2018.)
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, and now living and working in New York City, Toor’s work often takes influence from his own biography considering his position as a queer Asian man. In previous works such as Paradise Villas 2011 and The Happy Servant 2013, he has produced a sharp critique of the Pakistani elite he encounters in Lahore. His work presents a fresh and intersectional view of a more complex identity than being simply Pakistani or Muslim or a male immigrant in the United States. Toor has explained: ‘For me painting is a process of self-definition, as an outsider in multiple worlds which become more and more entangled and complex.’ (Quoted in Aicon Gallery 2015, p.4.)
9pm, The News is part of a larger series of paintings first shown together at Aicon Gallery, New York in 2015, under the title Resident Alien. The series includes a number of paintings of news broadcasts, with the presenters as announcers of international threats and new conflicts. Splatters of black oil are another motif that recurs throughout the series, representing ideas of guilt and shame at the embrace of new liberal identities, perceived as a rejection of ancestral values. In this painting, they hover around the figure of the son and form a puddle on the table. Toor depicts a psychological space within a world in which personal anxieties intersect with global concerns. Painting intuitively and from memory, his compositions and figures evolve as he paints. He adopts a range of styles from popular culture and art history, from the realism of Old Master painting to contemporary abstraction to the multiple viewpoints used to depict narrative in Persian and Indian miniature painting. 9pm, The News was included in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2016 alongside an installation titled The Revelation Project 2016, a work which considers the place of an immigrant caught between cultures, made in collaboration with the Pakistani poet Hasan Mujtaba, who also now resides in New York.
Salman Toor: Resident Alien, exhibition catalogue, Aicon Gallery, New York, 2015.
Unauthored interview, ‘Salman Toor, Painter of Modern Life’, artnet, https://news.artnet.com/market/salman-toor-interview-370421, 1 December 2015, accessed 28 March 2018.
‘Salman Toor and Hasan Mujtaba’, in Andreas Koller (ed.), Forming in the Pupil of an Eye, exhibition catalogue, Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, Kochi Biennale Foundation, Fort Kochi, India, pp.353–5.
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