Honor Freeman’s work is anchored firmly, via the forms, within the domestic sphere. In this very issues-driven climate, her pieces invite all sorts of conjecture as to subtexts and hidden meanings, messages and statements. However, this is at odds with Freeman’s agenda; her works are the end product of a process that is by far a more important focus than the pieces themselves. While she recognises that people will attribute various meanings to her work, Freeman isn’t particularly worried about whether people ‘get’ her meaning. Her priority is finding a way to integrate the rhythm of making into the larger rhythm of everyday life.
Central to this ethos of integration is Freeman’s choice of subject matter. There is no grand scale to Freeman’s work. It is rather, about the ordinary, everyday fabric of life, using ordinary and everyday objects. There is however, an amusing irony in the dichotomy of the permanence of her finished pieces versus the transient nature of many of the originals. The cakes of soap cast to make the moulds for Markers, 2007, have long gone, as they would have been with ordinary use, but the porcelain replicas, complete with dirty streaks ingrained in the cracks, will endure. She also turns the idea of endurance and preservation on its head in a series based on vintage Tupperware sourced over a long period from op shops. Replicating the soft pastels of the originals with coloured porcelain slip, the stacked piles are a direct reference to the unholy confusion of the domestic plastics cupboard. The original containers were of course intended to preserve food, which has since been eaten or thrown away and now the vintage containers themselves are deteriorating, the plastic having passed its own use-by date— contrary to our idea of its permanence. And yet, Freeman’s porcelain pieces celebrating this iconic brand of kitchenware have the potential to last indefinitely.
These concerns with the ephemeral nature of our existence, related to the repetitive routines of the everyday, are at the core of Freeman’s making. She speaks of the repetitive nature of the slip-casting process almost as a metaphor for the rest of her life, but at the same time draws from daily routines to inform the work. Her immediate inspiration for new work can be quite random—a line from a song, the sense of ideas from a book she’s reading, or from a particular object. Always, she comes back to the clay itself. Unlike many current porcelain makers, she doesn’t exploit its renowned translucency, choosing instead to utilise its capacity for carrying colour and its ability to mimic other surfaces and textures. Her palette is consistently muted, referencing the work of painter Giorgio Morandi, but rather than the monochrome tones of the paintings, Freeman works with a range of pastels from the entire spectrum.
Freeman speaks of the ‘glass half full, half empty’ zeitgeist: the active processes of casting the objects, tidying the moulds, pouring the slip and unmoulding each piece forms a sequence of actions that travel between these two like, yet unalike states. The fugitive sense of transitional states is realised in the transformation of the material from liquid to solid object. At the same time, there is the commemorative notion of capturing the essence of an object that by its nature has a sense of impermanence. Freeman plays with concepts of memory and time, chasing an elusive sense of how we place ourselves within our world and the elements that make up that world—all within the greater context of our own place, as individuals, within the larger community. Her deeply ordinary objects—soap, plastic food containers, used sponges, plugs, buckets, light switches—speak to us with familiar voices, telling us the stories that we know in our own lives.
Recent developments in Freeman’s work are creating a shift of balance technically. She is experimenting with a change of scale, which is not as straightforward as it may seem, and sees this period as one of refining the balance of studio and outside existence. It heralds a period of more studio time after what has been a consistently busy time of exhibiting.