18 Feb 2024 - 20 May 2024

The Ground Day Breaks



ATHR Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of works by Muhannad Shono, one of Saudi Arabia’s most imaginative artistic voices. On view from 18 February – 20 May 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 apart from as 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 at H20-H21 in the JAX District, an industrial heritage site for artists and creative industries in Al Diriyah Al Jadidah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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.

Press release from ATHR

Image: Muhannad Shono. Installation view of The Ground Day Breaks at ATHR, Riyadh, 2024. Sculptural intervention of reclaimed sand and resin. Variable dimensions. Photography by Artur Weber. Image courtesy of the artist and ATHR Gallery