A treasured private notebook is an intimate exploration of shared childhood experiences, ignited through the artists discovering the secret writing practices of their mothers. Considering the impact of this matrilineal creativity in different ways, both Sowinska and Jones have engaged with their mothers in the creation of their work.
Sowinska’s film 80 Ways is an observational video work developed through an on-set collaboration between artist and mother. The two worked together to play out and dramatise a chapter of Sowinska’s mother’s erotic novel, written under the pseudonym Sandy Mayflower. 80 Ways reveals the idiosyncrasies between mother and daughter, through the psychologically-charged subject of sexual intimacy, often considered too transgressive to discuss in parent-child relationships.
Jones’ large scale textile installation, Jane's Salvation (Paterson's Curse) (2019), responds to an essay her mother wrote for the artists’ own exhibition in 2017, exploring nostalgia as a coping mechanism for trauma. Anticipating a scathing review of family dynamics and conservative racist rural politics, Jones instead received a touching story about death, loss, and the function of nostalgia. Jones’ work is a hand embroidered excerpt from her mother’s essay presented on swathes of fabric, alongside the motif of the invasive Paterson’s Curse weed. Covering the land surrounding Thea’s mother’s childhood home with a blanket of purple flowers, Paterson’s Curse is an introduced weed that degrades the environment and though pretty, is toxic to wildlife. Paterson’s Curse has been an ongoing motif in Jones' work, representational for European colonisation, and a subsequent critical investigation and deconstruction of her own role as a white woman living on colonised land.
First presented at Metro Arts, Brisbane in February 2019, A treasured private notebook is a poetic and humorous account of two artists exploring the ways we process and absorb—whether consciously or not—the behaviours passed down to us, and how we grapple with these formative parts of ourselves.
A treasured private notebook includes an accompanying publication with essays by Rosie Funder, Diego Ramirexxx, Sandy Mayflower and Jennifer Jones.
Ella Sowinska is an artist and filmmaker whose work is guided by the theoretical discourses of documentary and reality television. Working predominately in video, installation and occasionally performance, Ella addresses the impact that the constructed situation has upon these social relationships. Her work explores the power dynamics between director or artist and actor, participant or contestant by drawing attention to the often constructed situation. Recent projects have been concerned with the representation of intimacy and desire in non-fiction screen based works from a queer perspective. Ella graduated with an Honours degree in fine art from Monash University Art Design and Architecture in 2013, and a Masters degree in film and television from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2018.
Thea Jones is an artist with a background in philosophy. She is broadly interested in post-structuralism and theories of language, particularly through a feminist lens. She often utilises textiles and traditional craft techniques to explore these themes. Recent projects have responded to folklore and amateur rural histories surrounding the region in NSW where her maternal family has lived for over 100 years, with a focus on deconstructing feelings of belonging and place as a white woman living on stolen land with a violent history.
Ella and Thea’s practices are collectively interested in interpersonal relationships, power dynamics and social construction. They have shown together previously at Metro Arts in 2019, and in 2017 for Everything Spring, curated by Julia Murphy at The Honeymoon Suite, Melbourne. Ella and Thea live and work in Naarm Melbourne on the unceded sovereign land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.