If you’re in your seventies, you’ll know the magic that was Flamingo Park. When I stand in that room… Just like the day it first opened on the 27th August 1971, 11am reggae time… With the swaying of plastic palms and the Rivers of Babylon playing on our tape deck… You can feel the excitement.
Paradise Found: Celebrating the combined artistry of Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson; one of the most influential pairings in the history of Australian fashion.
It’s the early 1970s. Whitlam’s leading the country, bell bottoms are all the rage and the LSD-laced euphoria of Woodstock has (only just) begun to wane. Amidst the fluctuating social and economic backdrop of post-conscription Australia, Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson are embarking on the creative partnership of a lifetime. A pas de deux that would go onto span multiple decades, late night musings and moments of sartorial magic, respectively.
It all began with a not-so-chance encounter at the Bonython Gallery in Sydney. In one of those rare spasms of celestial agreement, mirror neurons firing, Jenny and Linda instantly hit it off. Their first act? Establishing the (now iconic) Flamingo Park Frock Salon in the illustrious Strand Arcade; a site more than befitting the pair’s combined creative clout.
What ensued was a flurry of fashion parades, shared elation and, individual trials; the unarguable makings of any successful relationship. Or creative partnership for that matter.
Now, Jenny and Linda celebrate their grandest undertaking yet; a four-decade spanning retrospective of their joint portfolio to date, with over 150 garments, textiles, photographs and artworks exhibited alongside a stirring medley of personal affects and memorabilia.
Hosted by the Powerhouse Museum, ‘Step into Paradise’ is a multi-sensory eruption of colour and nostalgia; a compendium of art and moments past set to the enthralling hum of synth chords and omniscient narration.
“The whole collaboration has been magical,” shares Jenny. “It’s been an incredible journey working alongside Linda and the Powerhouse to make this exhibition a reality. To know that there is so much history in that one room and for people to see where these two little people came from – from our childhood drawings to our family relics – is incredibly powerful. The recreation of Flamingo Park is phenomenal; it still gives me shivers. That [segment] really is a departure; a step into paradise.”
“With this exhibition, we have tried to capture the pride we felt for Australia when we returned in the 1970s, and the way the environment has inspired us over the years,” continues Linda. “Jenny and I have always shared a love for colour, vibrancy and nature, and we’ve aimed to bring this to life through our designs. It’s been remarkable to sift through our personal archives, both individually and together, and to share our passion with our visitors.”
On Australia’s natural landscape – the pair’s most persistent source of inspiration – Jenny muses; “Linda and I look at this country with twin-soul eyes. We’ve [depicted] waratahs and opals for over fifty years now, [manifesting] the same inspirations in different ways. Nature is boundless; there’s always something new to look at or a new means of interpretation. We want people to walk away with an understanding of how much we both love this country.”
When asked how one (or two in this case) maintains a creative openness; an ability to hone their instincts and receptivity despite the odds or years amassed; the answer is simple. “Inspiration is endless; it’s not something that runs out,” responds Linda. “It’s all in the exploring.” A sentiment Jenny echoes; “There’s a different philosophy behind our work; a deep care factor. We’ve always been completely immersed in whatever inspiration we’ve found. Everything comes from within us.”
On identifying when a work has reached its completion, Jenny shares; “It’s a magical process. As for knowing when to stop? That’s a mystery. The mystery of what is right; the point where everything in your heart and creative mind says, ‘that’s it!’. That’s when you know you’ve finished. That’s the knowing of an artist; it’s intangible.” Linda concludes, “Everyone sees things differently. You have to nurture that trust, belief and confidence in yourself.”
Name a more iconic duo. We’ll wait.
Step into Paradise is currently showing at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney until 22nd March 2020. For more information, visit maas.museum/paradise.
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