Honor Freeman – Sunlight for a pandemic

11 March to 10 April 2021

This timely body of work continues my exploration into the poetic potential of the simple and ubiquitous bar of soap. A small yet quietly powerful object that has gathered heightened meaning during the last 12 months. Using the mimetic qualities of clay via the process of slip casting, this sunlight series interacts with ideas of liquid made solid. The porcelain casts remember the almost obsolete objects; the liquid yellow slip solidifies becoming a precise memory of a past form – a ghost.

Yellow and its many shades, is a colour I find myself especially drawn towards and I am currently embracing a yellow phase: mustard, lemon, chartreuse, citrine, straw, ochre, gold, daffodil, sunshine, canary, saffron, turmeric, honey, sulphur.

Emotive and joyous, it is the colour of sunshine, enlightenment and hope, used by ancient cultures to embody and harness the divine power of the sun. Yellow is also the colour of ‘Sunlight soap’, one of the first bar soaps to be individually packaged and marketed for the masses in 1884, and still available today, “gentle on hands, and everything they wash”.

Yet yellow has a conflicted past as a duplicitous colour associated with cowardice, jealousy, dishonour and greed. I encountered a more sinister side as I leant into the pandemic, researching archives from the 1918 Spanish flu and exploring the history of soap, hand washing and quarantine. Historically, yellow was used internationally on maritime signal flags to symbolise quarantine in a port, on the flags flown on ships to signal a diseased vessel, and the colour of SOS cards and cloth used to mark homes of infection. Curiously, when the yellow flag is flown today, it signals the opposite — a ship free from disease and requesting pratique.

A fitting colour palette for a pandemic. I’m taking the sunny side. A ray of sunlight to illuminate the gloom.

This project has been generously supported by the Arts South Australia and the Australia Council for the Arts.