Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tomm El-Saieh, currently considered the only contemporary abstract painter from his country, is constantly challenging the figurative ephemera that permeates in Haitian art. Devoid of motifs, the viewer is left with a widened vision of drone-like perspectives; akin to our modern time.
The head and the house refers to the Haitian revolutionary slogan that reads "Koupe Tèt, Boule Kay" which translates to "cut the head, burn the house." This was the Haitian Revolution leader Dessalines' advice to his followers, as they fought for their independence.
Those followers eventually found themselves in a free colony, but also in debt to the very same people whom they were liberated from. Haitians shaped their nation and their identity in this unique position- reconstructing their houses atop the ground that still burned from the revolution.
"I see this cutting and burning as a metaphor for the removal of narrative in my work- it is a confrontation with tradition," states El-Saieh.
Through a practice of trance-like painting, the frequency of Haitian Vodou and the tension throughout Haiti’s history is mirrored within El Saieh’s supra-narrative. Events, people and their magnitudes are de-prioritzed, removed and constantly revisited through marks, color and the specificity that defines "the real" within the abstracted.
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