‘The Ground Day Breaks’ by Muhannad Shono curated by Nat Muller at Athr Gallery Riyadh

Athr Gallery in Riyadh presents Muhannad Shono’s solo exhibition curated by Nat Muller, titled ‘The Ground Day Breaks’ taking place from February 18th until May 20th. In his exhibition Shono employs reclaimed black foundry sand as his primary medium, repurposing a depleted industrial material to evoke its imaginative potential. This sand, typically used in foundries for molding before becoming unsuitable for further use, symbolises defiance against fixed forms, flowing in and out of shape. Shono’s work speaks to global ecological uncertainty, regional political turmoil, and social change in Saudi Arabia, blending topicality with poetic expression.

A Promise of Breaking, 2024, Muhannad Shono, Series of unique impact prints, Carbon transfer on paper, 56 x 112 cm, 100 x 60 cm. Courtesy of the artist and ATHR Gallery. Photo credit: Artur Weber

The exhibition explores recurring themes in Shono’s art, such as renewal, the interplay between natural and built environments, and narrative as a tool for world-building. Innovative techniques allow the grain’s restless quality to be unleashed, turning material practice into speculative exploration. “Night Dew” and “Seedlings,” two projects within the exhibition, embody contrasting energies – the former suggesting latent possibility while the latter brims with determined growth.

Central to Shono’s oeuvre is the motif of Al-Khidr, symbolising nature’s greening and rebirth. “From the Land” showcases sculptures created by spraying sand with resin, evoking healing and the passage of time, resembling archaeological artifacts or extraterrestrial forms.

What Remains, 2024, Muhannad Shono, Series of sculptural interventions, Reclaimed sand on carbon paper, Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and ATHR Gallery. Photo credit: Artur Weber

While renewal is a central theme, the exhibition also addresses violence and loss. “What Remains” portrays fragmentation and dissolution, capturing the moment of impact and dissolution through carbon transfers and impact prints. “A Promise of Breaking” explores the aftermath of destruction, featuring sharp lines and smudges that evoke movement and transformation.

“Folding Grounds” highlights the material’s pliability, resembling textiles and offering comfort and shelter. The titular piece, “The Ground Day Breaks,” features handcrafted sculptures arranged in a radial pattern, marrying monumentality with tenderness and poetic sophistication.

Shono’s exhibition encapsulates contradictions inherent in the desert landscape, offering a nuanced exploration of the tiny grain of sand as both a necropolis and a life source. Through his art, Shono invites viewers to contemplate the duality of destruction and renewal, encapsulated within the humble grain of sand.

Installation view of the exhibition The Ground Day Breaks by Muhannad Shono at ATHR Gallery, Riyadh, 18 Feb – 20 May 2024. Courtesy of the artist and ATHR Gallery. Photo credit: Artur Weber

About Muhannad Shono

Muhannad Shono, born in Riyadh in 1977, is an artist with a background in architecture, renowned for his diverse artistic practice spanning mediums like paper, site-specific interventions, sculpture, and robotic installations. His work, deeply rooted in mythology and the exploration of line, void, and natural materials, crafts speculative narratives. Shono represented Saudi Arabia at the 59th Venice Biennale with “The Teaching Tree” (2022) and will curate the Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah (2025). He has participated in events globally, including exhibitions at the British Museum, London, and has works in collections like the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Shono is the recipient of the 2021-2022 National Cultural Award in Visual Arts, Saudi Arabia, and his upcoming monograph “Muhannad Shono. Works [2014-2024]” will be published by Kehrer Verlag. He resides in Riyadh and is represented by Athr Gallery.

About Dr. Nat Muller

Dr. Nat Muller, an Amsterdam-based independent curator, writer, and researcher, specialises in contemporary Middle Eastern art and science fiction. Notably, she curated the Danish Pavilion “Heirloom” at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. Her writing appears in publications like Art Basel and Hyperallergic, and she’s curated video screenings for international festivals like Rotterdam’s International Film Festival. Muller has edited artist monographs and is currently working on Muhannad Shono’s monograph. With a forthcoming book on science fiction in Middle Eastern art based on her PhD, she’s also been involved in awards like the Prix Pictet and V&A Jameel Art Prize as a nominator.

Location: Athr Gallery, Riyadh

Date: February 18th to May 20th, 2024

Caption featured image: Installation view of The Ground Day Breaks, 2024, Muhannad Shono, Sculptural intervention of reclaimed sand an resin, Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and ATHR Gallery. Photo credit: Artur Weber

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