The 40 Under 40 Exhibition – Karina Seljak Sees The Awe And Wonder Of The World In Her Art

Karina Seljak - Desert Pearl
Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

Now in its fourth year, The 40 Under 40 Exhibition & Art Prize is back at The Cooroy Butter Factory Arts Centre in Noosa, celebrating and showcasing young and emerging artists.

The 2024 event is extra triumphant, considering the event took a hiatus in 2023 and returns with a new captain, Jordan Neal, at the helm. Attendees can expect to see the works of 40 of the freshest artists under 40 that the Sunshine Coast has to offer.

It's not just a place to see some fantastic art either – it's also a place to reward the efforts of the hard-working, talented hands behind the brushes. The art prizes return and will be awarded to the region's most promising.

There'll be some great art prizes given to the top 2D and 3D artists, as well as the People's Choice award.

To kick it all off, there'll be a killer opening event starring bands, beers, and of course, art.

One of the 40 Under 40 artists showcasing at the 2024 event is a returning talent – Karina Seljak. Karina's work investigates colour relationships and ephemerality. Her work consists of symbols of draped fabric, moons and vessels, to give form to the felt, unseen energies of the earth.

Here, we speak to Karina about her art, and what it's like to be part of 40 Under 40.

First of all, tell us a bit about your work – what are you inspired by and where do you begin?
I draw landscapes and dreamscapes with soft pastels, bringing felt energies of the earth into form. There’s a kind of sentience of the land that I’m responding to, which I mostly perceive at times of transition like dusk, or temporal moments as when a wave crests or the moon rises. There’s also visions that appear in my own varying states of consciousness, including dreams and meditations. I take photos and draw from those memories, or try to capture a vision by sketching. I use my hands to blend the pigments into sharp lines and smooth gradients depicting symbols like vessels, spheres and fabrics in spacious settings.

What sorts of responses do you hope to elicit with your art?
I love hearing diverse responses to my work. Many people have said the artwork is serene. A friend registered surprise when she noticed the layering and movement of the pigment within what first appears as solid, saturated colour. Another viewer said it feels cosmic because I feature round things a lot, and others see genitalia in the organic shapes. I’d love audiences to sense the awe and wonder I feel when I watch the land just being. Ultimately, it’s my way of being in conversation with an ancient, quickly changing and often hurting earth, and inviting others into that process.

What are you presenting at 40 Under 40 this time?
Two works, one called Desert Pearl and the other Ocean Pearl. They each have a pearlescent moon hovering or flying through space amongst fluttering silk. I’m so excited to see these two quite surreal works out in the world.

Where did your love for art come from?
I was drawing little worlds from a very young age and remember winning an art prize at my local country show when I was five years old. Growing up, many of the gifts I’d receive from my parents included art making materials, some of which I still return to when I want to explore new ideas, like old inks, oil pastels or papers for collage. I then studied Fine Arts Fashion at university so I could explore art, functionality and commerce. Now I understand the world through art, it seems to be the primary lens through which I learn about cultures, histories, individual experiences, societal shifts and possible futures.

Congratulations on being a returning artist for the 40 Under 40 Exhibition! What does it mean to you to be back?
Thanks! I love showing at 40 Under 40 because exhibiting the work in its home environment is so satisfying. So many of my ideas are conceived by experiencing incredible natural phenomena on the Sunshine Coast, so it’s like reflecting the Coast back to itself. The exhibition also feels like a foundational pillar for the young arts community here on the Coast, it’s a really celebratory experience and it’s special to be able to contribute to that.

And what are you most looking forward to about the 2024 iteration in particular?
I can’t wait to see what everyone has been working on. It’s like a temperature check on youth culture in the region. What’s important to folks, how do they choose to express, how has that changed since the first Exhibition in 2021. Lots of the artists I know, and I’m keen to see what work they choose to put forward, and many of the artists will be new to me – it’s always exciting to discover new artists!

Why do you think an event like this one is important for the Sunshine Coast?
The 40 Under 40 Exhibition, now in its third iteration, has been seminal in building an arts culture for young people on the Coast. The Coast is packed with dedicated practicing artists of all ages, but until the last few years the arts institutions here would mostly show work by older generations and more established artists. The exhibition is both a meeting place and a platform to take each other seriously as young artists.

What’s next for you?
My first solo show! I’ll kick off the year experimenting with some 3D forms in clay as well as pastel drawings and see where it takes me for a showing in the second half of the year.

The 40 Under 40 Exhibition & Art Prize is on at The Cooroy Butter Factory Arts Centre (Noosa) from 12 January-25 February. The opening party takes place on 19 January.

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