Martin Giesse

Martin Giesse

lives and works in Chicago, IL


Martin Giesse is a Chicago based artist who specializes in large format abstract paintings, drawings and sculptures focusing on fragmented forms with particular interest in Eastern designs. Born to a Dutch family but raised in South Carolina, Giesse moved to Chicago where he earned his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and a degree in Communication Design/Illustration from the American Academy of Art (AAA), where he worked under the tutelage of the renowned William Parks. While a student, Giesse won a Scholarship from the Society of Illustrators in New York and a scholarship award from RKO Radio Broadcast Corporation. Upon graduation he had a brief tenure as an illustrator for advertisement campaigns, periodicals and books, resulting in several awards of excellence. Giesse left the world of advertising in the 1990s to pursue work as a mount maker and muralist for a range of museums and other public institutions. He was especially drawn to the idiosyncratic challenges of conceptualizing and fabricating display mounts for individual art-cultural and historical artifacts. This work, constantly attuned to the interplay of form and function, informs his own art practice: “I believe it is a rich culmination of my experiences with my museum work and travels. I have handled and designed for artifacts from Polynesia to Indonesia and places in between.”

Artist's Statement

“My work is inspired by the geometric design of Eastern mandalas and ancient Japanese tapestries and screens, with their simple yet handsome renderings of clouds, waves and feathers. These influences show up in both the geometry and brushwork in my paintings. I have worked for twenty years in museums and with artifacts from Polynesia, Indonesia, Greece, Turkey and many other places around the world. I feel very fortunate to have been able to watch Tibetan Monks create beautiful sand mandalas during the day and play softball with them later in the early evening or work where Alexander the Great cut the Gordion Knot and declared himself King of Persia. It is very gratifying to combine all this into an authentic expression of [one's] life. These experiences have influenced this body of work significantly. In particular, I explore the beauty that appears in decay, the way objects fall apart when acted upon by natural forces and the mystery of what is left. I combine the concept of a fragment –a vessel with a chip or a missing handle- with the perfect shape of the circle, with its gentle confinement, to create a new kind of artifact. My circular paintings juxtapose wholeness and fragmentation within the circle form.”
–Martin Giesse