Alumni Spotlight: Honor Freeman

Midden (all that glitters), 2018, by Honor Freeman

Midden (all that glitters), 2018. Slipcast porcelain, gold lustre, gold leaf. Variable dimensions (comprised of 191 components). Image by Craig Arnold.

Honor Freeman graduated from the South Australian School of Art at the University of South Australia in 2001 with an Honours degree in Ceramics and Glass. Following graduation, Honor took up a position as Associate in JamFactory’s ceramics studio.

Though she has exhibited widely throughout Australia and internationally in several solo and group exhibitions, including a stint as Artist in Residence at Denmark’s Guldagergaard Museum of International Ceramic Art, Honor remains based in Adelaide and works from her studio to observe, explore, and disrupt the ordinariness of the objects that occupy the domestic realm.

Most recently, Honor was invited to undertake the Guildhouse Collections Project. A unique venture that began in 2014, the Collections Project supports practitioners to produce new works of art in response to diverse collections across three major South Australian cultural institutions: Art Gallery of South Australia, Flinders University Art Museum, and the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium of South Australia. Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery, Leigh Robb, describes the project as “a means to readdress the history and distribution of power in an institution by opening it up to the artists it serves.”

The Collections Project will culminate in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2019.

 Honor Freeman in the studio, 2017.

Honor Freeman, 2017. Photo by Angus Lee Forbes, commissioned by Australian Design Centre for the exhibition Obsessed: Compelled to make.

Q: What do you consider the central tenets or motivators of your art practice?

A: The foundations of my making are informed by a strong craft background: process, material knowledge, repetition, multiples. My work exists in the in-between space between craft and art; it is the tension of this blurred line that I find compelling.

My practice reveals a careful observation of the domestic realm and the ordinariness of the everyday. The work conveys ideas of material transformation. The transmutation of common, unremarkable, domestic objects into sculptures that belie their materiality and purpose – an ordinary alchemy.

Working primarily in porcelain, I harness the mimetic qualities inherent in clay through the magic of slip casting. The works playfully interact with ideas of liquid made solid. The porcelain casts echo the original objects; the liquid slip turns solid and becomes a memory of a past form – a ghost object.

Q: What drew you to the project you’re currently working on?

A: A recurring theme of ghosts – the invisible, the unknown makers, the disappeared – has emerged as I explore objects found in ancient Roman tombs, ritual objects, objects of mourning, and pieces that show proudly the signs of mending and repair. Objects brought back to life with traditional mending techniques, metal staples repairing porcelain and Kintsugi, a Japanese technique of mending pottery using lacquer dusted with gold, silver, or platinum, depict the history on the object’s surface.

The resonance and power of the stories – real and imagined – surrounding and held within these pieces is compelling.

Soap score by Honor Freeman, 2016.

Soap score, 2016. Slipcast porcelain. 3.5x156x158cm, 656 components. Image by Craig Arnold.

Q: What have you valued most about the Collections Project? What surprised you?

A: [The Collections Project] has given me access to a vast resource of works and objects – especially, but not exclusively, ceramics – stretching back centuries to study and explore, and put me in touch with the curators and staff who know this collection intimately. It has also given me a greater sense of the history of the Art Gallery of South Australia, and its collections over time.

Q: How do you feel your art practice will be influenced by this project?

A: This project presents an immeasurable residency opportunity to spend time absorbed in the Art Gallery of South Australia’s vast collection. It has been invigorating and stimulating and at times overwhelming, feeling the weight of the sheer volume of objects and stories held in the database, library, and stores. I have no doubt it will push my work in new directions of scale and presentation and will enrich and inform my practice into the future, having ongoing benefits creatively.

Q: What do you see as the value of initiatives like these in terms of South Australia’s art/s industry?

A: Museums and galleries are the custodians of collections, the caretakers of objects and artworks that allow us to time travel. The Collections Project cultivates new readings and understandings of the AGSA collection, inviting artists through their research to animate and reinterpret it via the creation of new work.

Ceramics and clay especially, across cultures and through the centuries has held a wealth of timeless narratives about how we have lived. This project offers another understanding of ceramics and a new insight into the collection, and it gives me a rich resource in which to draw from into the future, that I know will have a profound influence on my practice. It’s important for artists and the community to be engaged with these institutions to keep them relevant and connected to the community they seek to serve – for there to be dialogue and access. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity.

Honor Freeman is represented by Sabbia Gallery.

Study with the School of Art, Architecture and Design.