Jacqui Burnes is a gallery co-director and illustrator from Melbourne. Vivacious, impassioned and community-spirited, her ethos revolves around bringing people in, opening doors—literally and metaphorically—to those making art, exhibiting art and experiencing art in new and exciting ways. Her ethos also revolves about lifting people up, in providing a space and a launch pad for young female artists whose practice may shy from the mainstream. I talked to Jacqui about her gallery, her penchant for black coffee and her ‘dream-future’ for female identifying artists.
To begin, you’re such a multi-faceted woman and woah—where does all the energy come from? Also, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Jacqui Burnes, co-director of Enough Space and an illustrator/artist. I wear a lot of hats within both of those roles, and to be frank, I think 98% of that energy comes from black coffee. It’s also very easy to work hard when you love the work you do.
You are a co-director of Enough Space, a creative concept space and gallery, holding exhibitions, workshops, pop-up shops, installations and more. What inspired this project?
Enough transpired quite out of the blue. My good friend, and fellow co-director Laura Rose Main was given the opportunity to take over a space and I offered to come on board and help her with it. We had already known each other for a number of years and I had always wanted to curate a space like this but never really thought it would happen, or so soon. Enough was born early 2015 and launched that December.
Enough came out of a desire to see more support for the arts at the ground level – to become a staple south-side venue in Melbourne for accessible and interesting artistic endeavours. We were just two ladies who wanted to use our time and skills make this space a reality; so we did everything we could in our power (with a whole lot of midnight oil burned) to make it so.
Since you conceptualised Enough, have you experienced one/many of those ‘sit-back’ moments where you feel fulfilled and pretty chuffed by everything that surrounds you?
Constantly. I think the greatest ‘light bulb’ moment I get with Enough occurs on opening nights; that moment when the artist is finally able to breathe that sigh of relief and let the pride in their work wash over them. It’s a real honour to be able to help creatives realise their vision. Every time the workload seems overwhelming, this is an incredible motivation to keep doing the work we do.
As an esteemed illustrator, you also create your own art. Could you tell me a bit about it?
I’ve been drawing for a couple of years now, although it has taken a little bit of a backseat the last year as I’ve been focusing on the space. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited in a bunch of great shows over the years with many artists I admire and to be able to work on some really cool projects for various places and publications. My latest Tassel drawings are something I want to explore more this year, even just draw for me, and I’m also really keen to spend 2017 learning new skills I can apply to my practice.
How do your political and emotional inclinations inspire your projects? Where do you find the verve to enthuse change?
Personally, I think there needs to be more encouragement for artists to exhibit their work even at an amateur level, so I feel like this is my opportunity to get in at the ground level and help them to do that. This could be the one chance I get to actually promote the artists I love. Honestly, you just find the energy in your own personal ‘cool things’ reserve. I think Enough is one of the coolest things I will ever do and one of the most direct ways I will be able to help fellow artists, so when things come up, you just work around everything else to make it happen.
I also love that Enough can be a platform to amplify voices of people who don’t necessarily get that opportunity otherwise. For example, two shows we were incredibly proud to support with Enough were ‘Shark Week’ by Tsuno, a group show which raised money for the International Women’s Development Agency (among other women’s and female identifying charities) and ‘Out Of Reach,’ a group show curated by Victoria Hannan which raised money for the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.
You also work as a shop-gal for an inner-city boutique. Age-old question: how do you find juggling your many creative pursuits with paying the bills?
I just fit a full-time paying job in there – I also don’t spend a lot of money on myself or go out much. As long as I go to my job, I can fit everything else around it and it’s seemed to work (for the most part) for me. I’m lucky I have a job I’ve been in for a few years now that works around these different things I am running around doing, and supportive friends who understand my availability.
In your opinion, what does your dream-future look like for female/female identifying artists? And what can we—the public—do to help you?
It’s pretty simple, really: Support women in the arts. Support marginalised people in the arts. Support young people in the arts. Basically, fob off everyone who has been given the upper hand traditionally. I really feel like artists have one of the hardest jobs in the world – and if we love to view and enjoy art, we have to really do our part to make it accessible for all and help and support each other to get it out there. I know so many kick ass women and people who are just making a name for themselves by carving out their own place in the scene. It’s incredibly inspiring to be part of that community and I want to just focus on doing my best to contribute meaningfully to that.