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El-Saieh studio
El Saieh studio shot with chair

Tomm El-Saieh's Miami Studio. Photo by George Echevarria

A spider isn’t taught how to spin its web, it simply knows. Like the spider, Tomm El-Saieh daubs innately, his acrylic abstractions ensnaring the eyes with their rhythmic patterns and euphonious color. Though El-Saieh finds inspiration in spiders and bee hives and other life colonies, this is not his primary muse. “I relate my paintings more to music than anything,” the artist says.

With his first solo museum show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami and inclusion in the 2018 Triennial at the New Museum in New York City, the artist has been pushing his practice to new realms. Born in Port-au- Prince and living in Miami since the age of 12, El-Saieh comes from a musical and artistic heritage that resonates strongly, but subtly, in his work. Issa El-Saieh, Tomm’s late grandfather, started his eponymous gallery in Haiti in the 1950s, where Tomm now serves as the director.

Besides molding the younger El-Saieh to enter the family business of art dealing, Issa passed on to his grandson a sense of the relationship between music and painting. Prior to opening his gallery, Issa was a maestro for a band that incorporated Vodou drumming, Cuban piano and American saxophone. “He always used the word permutation,” the artist says. “He told me, ‘It’s just a series of notes that you just move around.’”

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