Tomm El-Saieh’s dense and rhythmic paintings derive inspiration from myriad sources, including the history of and discourse on American and international abstraction, and Haitian Voodoo traditions such as trance-induction and percussive music. Obsessive markings – notations, shapes, scratches, and erasures – saturate the surfaces of his canvases, creating fields of bursting, complex color. The synesthetic, all-over compositions that El-Saieh produces from this meticulous process are at once sublime and sensual, mystical and direct, chaotic and restrained. While firmly planted in the realm of abstraction, El-Saieh’s paintings also suggest complex networks, sprawling cities, or molecular structures, and within the clustered code of his brushwork, figurative associations emerge and recede. This compelling ambiguity in the work invites close examination and rewards continued looking. Echoing throughout El-Saieh’s work is traditional Haitian painting’s emphasis on punctuation, repetition, economy of paint application, and color sensitivity; however, he eschews the religious, political, and quotidian scenes that dominate its highly codified and narrative content. For El-Saieh, his hybridized and entirely singular sense of abstraction is a distinctly personal experience, one that is performative and experiential.
El-Saieh was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1984 and is of Haitian, Palestinian, and Israeli descent. He grew up in Miami, FL, where he continues to live and work, while maintaining close personal and artistic ties to his native country. In 2018 his work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Miami, curated by Alex Gartenfeld and Stephanie Seidel. The same year El-Saieh was included in the New Museum’s 2018 Triennial: Songs for Sabotage in New York. Additional noteworthy exhibitions include solo presentations in 2015 and 2019 at CENTRAL FINE, Miami. Parallel to his artistic practice are El-Saieh’s curatorial endeavors that focus on historical and contemporary Haitian art. He has organized robust and illuminating exhibitions at numerous international venues, as well as through his family’s intergenerational and eponymous gallery in Port-au-Prince. El Saieh’s work is part of the permanent collection of the ICA Miami; Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin; de la Cruz Collection, Miami; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, among many others.