Muhannad Shono: The Ground Day Breaks

Muhannad Shono: The Ground Day Breaks


Muhannad Shono, What Remains, 2024. Reclaimed sand, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and ATHR Gallery.

February 9, 2024
Muhannad Shono
The Ground Day Breaks
February 18–May 20, 2024
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ATHR Gallery Riyadh
JAX District H21, Al Diriyah Al Jadidah
Saudi Arabia
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ATHR Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of works by Muhannad Shono, one of Saudi Arabia’s most imaginative artistic voices. On view February 18–May 20, 2024, The Ground Day Breaks is Shono’s first solo show since 2019. Curated by Nat Muller, the exhibition presents an entire new body of work comprised of sculptural pieces, works on paper, mixed media installations and a large-scale site-specific intervention created from over 50,000 kilograms of reclaimed black foundry sand. The new gallery space—ATHR’s third—is located in Riyadh’s JAX District.

Produced at a seismic juncture in the region and the world at large, The Ground Day Breaks resonates with many topical ecological, social and political concerns. Shono’s primary material, reclaimed black foundry sand, is a discarded industrial byproduct. Carbonised sand is used in foundries to create moulds and give shape to objects; over time it becomes obscured, coated in layer after layer of residue, the indelible trace of past forms. Ironically, although sand is a defining feature of the Arabian Peninsula, it cannot be employed for construction, and has few practical uses aside from foundry sand. Through a carefully researched and experiential process spanning nearly two years, Shono has developed unique techniques to transform and manipulate this inherently anonymous, mutable substrate, revealing a profound intertwining between material and conceptual practice. 

The Ground Day Breaks expands on themes central to the artist’s oeuvre: renewal and the tension between the architectural logic of the built environment and that of the natural landscape. The grains of sand in the exhibition, whether shaped into sculptures, broken on paper, or transferred to carbon, exist in a liminal space between being and not being, between demise and rebirth, and between past existence and future speculation. 

Shono’s work is both physically meticulous and expansive; the titular site-specific installation completely envelopes the space around it with approximately 2,000 individual hand-crafted sculptures. When viewed as a whole, the exhibition captures a fragile and unsettling moment that is fraught with a sense of decay or destruction yet filled with promise: the paradoxical energy of a transformation-in-waiting. For all their ruination, the works exude a poetic beauty. In the face of the world’s ongoing despair and overlapping crises, we are left with hope; even in a parched garden seeds can germinate and ideas can grow. 

The exhibition inaugurates ATHR Gallery’s Riyadh branch, located in the JAX District, an industrial cultural site for artists and creative industries in Al Diriyah Al Jadidah.

Muhannad Shono’s forthcoming monograph Muhannad Shono. Works [2014–2024], edited by Nat Muller, will be published by Kehrer Verlag and launch in mid-2024. The monograph, designed by award-winning graphic designer Edwin van Gelder (Mainstudio), addresses the central drivers of Shono’s practice: myths, lines and regeneration – and features contributions by leading writers and thinkers: Hala Auji, Nat Muller, Todd Reisz and Alison Sperling.

Muhannad Shono (b. Riyadh, 1977) represented Saudi Arabia at the 59th Venice Biennale with The Teaching Tree (2022) and has just been appointed Contemporary Art Curator for the 2nd edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale, Jeddah (2025). He has participated in many global biennials including the Sea Art Festival, Busan (2023); Islamic Arts Biennale, Jeddah (2023); Noor Riyadh Festival, Riyadh (2022 and 2023); Lyon Biennale, (2022); Diriyah Biennale, Riyadh, (2021); and Desert X, AlUla (2020). He has exhibited in group and solo shows across the region and internationally, including at Louvre Abu Dhabi (2023); Parcours, Art Basel (2022); the British Museum, London (2021 and 2018); GAM Sculpture Garden, Turin (2019); MACBA, Barcelona (2018); Ithra, Dammam (2019); 21.39 Jeddah Arts, Jeddah (2020 and 2017); and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2017). His work is in collection at the British Museum, London; the Art Jameel Foundation, Dubai; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Ithra Art Centre, Dammam; and Al-Mansouria Foundation, Riyadh. Shono was awarded the 2021-2022 National Cultural Award in Visual Arts, Saudi Arabia. 

For information and images, contact: Katrina Weber Ashour, Katrina [​at​] / +966-53-140-3070

VIP exhibition opening: February 18, 7–11pm
Open hours: February 19, 12–10pm
Public grand opening: February 20, 7–11pm
Regular hours: Sunday–Thursday: 4–11pm / Friday: Closed / Saturday: 12–8pm

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February 9, 2024

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