Highly Anticipated Robyn Ward Exhibition Opens At Modern Art Museum Shanghai

Robyn Ward New-York-City Photo by Noa Samassa 2023

Irish conceptual artist Robyn Ward’s eagerly awaited solo exhibition opens at the Modern Art Museum (MAM) Shanghai. Curated by MAM Artistic Director Shai Baitel, Walking In The Dark is an immersive experience inspired by Ward’s nomadic lifestyle and dual driving factors of escapism and avoidance. These compulsions are explored through abstract compositions and mixed media, comprising over 30 large painted canvasses alongside six freestanding sculptures.

Ward’s career has seen him establish studios in London, Amsterdam, New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. It is this itinerant lifestyle that informs Walking In The Dark by asking, “Why do people roam?” and “What is the aftermath of perpetual movement?”

Like the abstract nature of Ward’s artworks, a nomadic sensibility often veils deeper reasons for such roaming. His work invites questions about what exactly Ward is running away from through his travels. Like the act of walking in the dark, viewing Ward’s exhibition requires one’s eyes to adjust to see what would otherwise not be detected.

Robyn Ward ‘Story of Somebody I Knew’ MAM Shanghai

Born in Dublin and raised in Belfast during ‘The Troubles’, the artist conveys his own, highly personal journey by revealing snapshots of the past while simultaneously obscuring others, displaying apparently random fragments of time that are, in fact, flashbacks that depict the episodes of Ward’s backstory.

Walking In The Dark invites the visitor to contemplate the psychological, political and emotional interpretations of the exhibition’s various facets, enhanced by the intricate, sensitively-lit space where the artworks are on display at MAM Shanghai.

It narrates a story that is both timely and provocative, reflecting Ward’s personal experience with chaos, governance and violence, while commenting on the breakdown of society and referencing both historical and modern-day feuds and misunderstandings. While engaging with themes of destruction and conflict, the artist’s work addresses his own life, defined by perpetual movement and a constant feeling of restlessness.

This sense of restlessness has permeated Ward’s life and work since his teenage years, honing his unique talent, unencumbered by the confines of the classroom. “When you’re in a school, you spend maybe an hour or two in your class,” he says. “I was spending six to seven hours a day painting.”

Robyn Ward Road Markings MAM Shanghai
Robyn Ward Road Markings MAM Shanghai

Using wet, loose brushstrokes with distinctive markings, Walking In The Dark sees Ward tell his story on outsized canvases through a nostalgic veil of innocence and naivety.

Following on from highly acclaimed runs in New York and London, Ward joins a hugely impressive rollcall of artists whose work will be displayed at MAM Shanghai this year, including David Hockney and Marina Abramović. Ward’s exhibition kickstarted this landmark 2024 programme on Saturday 23rd March.

Ward will return to London at the start of September for a solo exhibition at the Rosenfeld Gallery on Rathbone Street.

Shai Baitel said of the exhibition: ‘To embark on Ward’s art journey and see the subtlety of this ubiquitous psychological tension manifested in his work requires an openness to experiencing catharsis this impactful—of seeing one’s life in all its tensions and contradictions reflected through the artist’s creation.

Robyn Ward ‘Indiscriminately Locked Up’ MAM Shanghai

In Ward’s work, there is energy, a level of brightness, that shows the ability and possibility to emerge from and embrace the shadow.

‘Ward’s artwork speaks to the unifying power of art in challenging times. The world can be an intense, scary place, and every year, we feel more divided than ever. Art is a universal language and has the power to bridge disparate sensibilities. The international, far-reaching scope of this and other upcoming exhibitions at MAM Shanghai show how many different artistic voices can coexist with one another.’

Ward said: ‘I am thrilled to be unveiling my first solo exhibition in China, particularly at such a renowned institution, and look forward to seeing Shai Baitel’s curatorial vision for Walking in the Dark come alive at MAM’.

Modern Art Museum Shanghai
Modern Art Museum Shanghai

Walking in the Dark opens on 23rd March 2024 at MAM Shanghai and runs until May 2024

The Modern Art Museum (MAM) in Shanghai, China, is an institution with a global and multidisciplinary approach, contributing to the education, knowledge and enjoyment of art through an immersive and engaging experience. MAM Shanghai is the largest contemporary art museum in Shanghai, measuring over 7,000 square meters. Its vast industrial architecture offers a versatile and dynamic space to connect shared cultures of the East and West. Located on the ‘cultural corridor’ of museums and galleries that runs along the riverside in the Pudong New Area, MAM utilizes innovative methods to facilitate public participation and engagement with art.

Top Photo: Robyn Ward New York City Photo by Noa Samassa 2023

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