Circular Ruins: A Heuristic Approach to Material Inquiry

A Contemplation of Khora by artist Sharon Read

There are many words associated with the work of Sharon Read, entropy, decay, erosion, death, the body, self. However, there is one word that resonates above all others, heartbeat. Knowing the artist’s history as well as I do, it is hard for me look at her work without hearing her heart beat. It is its own being that becomes one with the work whether it be sculptural, photographic or print-based. The heartbeat permeates through the work, reaching out to my own heart and sense of being. It is that quality that makes her work so beautiful.

Figure 1. Circular Drawing by S. Read 2017


The circle is symbolic to Sharon, physically and emotionally, it is a natural phenomenon. When we think of circular ruins, we think of historical settlements from centuries past, those ancient civilisations once called home. For Sharon, the circle represents her body, a home that is challenged by invisible illness, entropy and time. The hand built structures are the embodiment of physical tensions experienced by her body using conflicting materials to create installations allowing the viewer to become immersed.

Whether you spend time walking around them, or like me, step into the ruins themselves to be immersed by them, they are built in such a way that allow for an interactive, heuristic approach to material; enabling the viewer to have their own intimate experience with the material, and in turn consider their own sense of being.

Sharon’s work is holistic; all aspects of the making, the testing, the installing, the clean-up and recycling of material, along with her day-to-day experiences of fluctuating health, strength and ability, all encompasses the work. In doing so Sharon creates a holistic, contemplative and nurturing testament to her sense of self through material and sculptural inquiry. Furthermore, Sharon’s inquiry is documented in an ongoing series of photographs that hone in on one key aspect of the work that reflects her thinking. These moments of visual, phenomenological inquiry include studio shots and installation views, however the most poignant of these moments are the close-up images of concrete, ash, iron fillings and paper. These images transcend the work into a new realm of thinking, of material vibrancy; these photographs are indicative of Sharon’s autobiographical connection to her choice of materials and their significance.

“Quietly being in whatever form they have reached. Broken, used, or disregarded they exist in full vibrancy.” S. Read 2017

Her work all encompasses material, emotion and physical turmoil, existence and time. I have seen these bricks built by hand, with an intimate blend of ash, concrete, iron and memories; fragments of paper, rubble from old works and dust from her surroundings. I have watched as she chooses her materials; I have seen the vibrancy that she speaks of, both in the work itself, and in her, for one cannot exist without the other. I think about the significance of water, the element that binds, or attempts to bind these materials together. The water is challenged by these contrasting elements of concrete, iron and ash which echoes the everyday feat upon her blood by an invisible illness.

I have seen how pain takes hold of her hands under the weight of materials, of what binds them and the uncertainty that flows through her veins. I have seen how her hands shake under the residual weight of the unknown; pain like heat clamps her wrists like a vice on the studio table, challenging her ability to see the creation of the work to the end, to the moment of a new discovery. While pain often hinders creation, in Sharon’s case it aid her in her heuristic approach to material inquiry as with pain comes discovery of something other than herself, something beyond the known in the work, and furthermore, her body.

These bricks are not strong nor fragile, they are somewhere between. I have seen what happens when light touches these objects and how they transform from tactile objects to something much more ethereal; their affect is almost indescribable, they allude to a fragility beyond the physical, beyond the seen, beyond the knowable. They become another object entirely as from the creation of each brick, something else is discovered.




By Bethany Murray

There is beauty in her hands poised
Over these fragments around her.
As she hovers over old prints,
Fingerprint graces fingerprint
Retrieved from the flames

To be encased with other
Moments of history.
Her history, brick by fragile brick
Ash falls from between the cracks,
Fragments of a life now past.

Like a phoenix, they go to the flames
And emerge in a new state of being.
They are given new meaning.
Placed in ruinous monument to
A heartbeat.



Author: Bethany Murray

Content & Poem © 2017 Bethany Murray

Images © 2017 Sharon Read

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