Women in Art: Colour Magic

by Lauren Treiser Although the Melbourne Fashion Festival is over for another year, you can still get your fashion fix at the NGV for the next few months. You may just need your sunnies indoors for this one!

Linda Jackson: Bush Couture

On display at the NGV; Image from National Gallery of Victoria

Although Linda Jackson is an Aussie icon, NGV’s Ian Potter Centre is only now presenting her first major retrospective. Linda Jackson Bush Couture includes 35 pieces, which highlights the designer’s love of the Australian landscape and indigenous culture. These elements inspired her fashion label from 1974 – 1992. Jackson worked closely with the NGV to realize this exhibition and I was lucky to hear her speak. She is doing a few floor talks so maybe you can still catch her.

Vibrant is the perfect word to describe Jackson’s aesthetic. She certainly has a flare for the most striking use of colour and layering. One of the pieces has 15 layers to it! Luckily Jackson explained that you don’t have to wear them all at once!

Jackson’s story is a creative journey filled with friends who were on a similar path. In the 1970s Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson began to forge a unique vision of Australian dress, one that looked beyond the mainstream for inspiration. Jackson sold her dresses through their 'frock salon', Flamingo Park, in Sydney. Flamingo Park was renowned for what was reported as Sydney's most sensational fashion events, the annual Flamingo Follies parades.

Jackson experimented - she wore her own clothes and made-to-order. She would photograph her pieces in the setting they were inspired by. Jackson even gave friends her garments when they travelled so she could get fabulous shots insitu.

Image from National Gallery of Victoria

Journey to the red centre; Image from National Gallery of Victoria

Jackson initially worked with vintage prints. She travelled extensively around Australia, living and working with indigenous communities. This is where she learnt traditional textile techniques and brought the colours and patterns of the Australian flora and fauna into her work. She then moved onto screenprinting her own material. Once she did that, she simplified her patterns to the point that all she did was cut a hole for the head. This way she didn't loose much of the pattern. These became her signature kimono style garments. She also worked with applique, hand painting and patchwork. Her pieces have a sense of playfulness to them.

She only made very few of each garment as she didn't want a lot of the same out there and always wanted to move on to her next idea. Linda Jackson certainly had foresight though – so much so that she decided to ‘collect’ herself. She kept her important pieces and that has that paid off now.

My favourite part of the talk was when Jackson showed us material she had printed. Most of it influenced by the black opal with vibrant colours coming through black. As well as being a fashion designer Linda is an artist who draws and paints. She is now using a lot of these drawings to digitally create patterns for scarves that are being sold exclusively at the NGV. They are very beautiful! Her patterns have also been used for wrapping paper and rugs. One can see how Jackson influences current labels such as Romance Was Born with her outlandish colours and prints.

Unlike most previous displays at the gallery, the garments are out on open display allowing the viewer to observe the intricate details of each garment. We were told that the upcoming Napoleon exhibit stole the display cases but all the better for us!

Linda Jackson: Bush Couture 26 January 2012 - 9 September 2012 The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square Level 2

Lauren is graphic designer and founder of patchyrugs.com.au. She loves all things design (see her blog at blog.ilovelollies.net) and is particularly passionate about fine art, interior design and jewellery. Lauren is currently studying Gold & Silversmithing and doing graphic design on a freelance basis.