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Meet Jelena Sinik — UNSW Sydney's 2023 Alumni Artist in Residence


ADA graduate (B Media '14) Jelena Sinik works as a freelance animator, designer and illustrator. She has been selected as the 2023 UNSW Alumni Artist in Residence.

Can you tell us about your background and how you became an artist?

While I grew up for most of my life on Sydney's Eastern beaches, I was born in Europe. Being bilingual, I've always been fascinated by the universality of visual storytelling. My love of film, animation and the arts developed from both my admiration of its power in bridging cultures and my desire to connect with others. Being an artist always seemed inevitable to me!

2023 Alumni Artist in Residence - Jelena Sinik
2023 UNSW Alumni Artist in Residence, Jelena Sinik.

What have been some of your career highlights or proudest accomplishments as an artist?

I've won a few film festival and art gallery awards both nationally and internationally for animated shorts I've made over the years and it always feels incredible to feel seen and appreciated for my ideas and craft. Other career highlights include working on Vivid Sydney projection shows, having my light lantern sculptures displayed in Paris and even designing an animated piece that was narrated by the legendary Stephen Fry!

What was your time as a student like at UNSW? Do you have any favourite memories?

Being a university student was an amazing time of discovery in my life. I learned so much about many things, had many new experiences and lived a multitude of stories to tell. My favourite memories are always of spontaneous and unexpected times on campus, both on my own and with friends! The uni campus is such a great space to just be.

What’s your artistic philosophy? What inspires you as an artist?

I have always felt that being an artist is not something that you choose, but rather something that chooses you. It comes with the responsibility to create with integrity, your own unique point of view and an all-encompassing appreciation for both the hardship and beauty in the world. My work predominantly explores the poetry and magical realism of everyday life, and that is where I find inspiration. With illustration and animation, it is the joy of movement (both visual and emotional) that is at the core of my approach.

What is your favourite artwork you have produced? Can you tell us a bit more about what it means to you?

My earliest completed experimental hand-drawn animated film 'Imagining Time' (2015), was the first time I felt a profound freedom in my expression as an artist. I explored experimental filmmaking by breaking conventional narrative structures and really found myself in the visual poetry animation space. Even though it is a work I produced in my Masters while I was still learning animation, the film will always have a place in my heart as the turning point in my life as an artist.

What does being a member of the UNSW alumni community mean to you?

University is all about discovery, so being part of the graduate network means that journey doesn't have to end. I've met a lot of interesting and amazing people at the university since finishing my degree and have even done some diverse and exciting jobs there. As an artist, community is everything!

2022 UNSW Alumni Award Winners
2022 UNSW Alumni Award Winner Portraits. Artist: Jelena Sinik

You’re the 2023 UNSW “Alumni Artist in Residence” – what does that mean to you and what do you hope to convey to other UNSW alumni through your artwork?

Thank you! I'm honoured to be the UNSW “Alumni Artist in Residence” this year. I am hopeful that as we enter a new year of post-pandemic life, my art will play a part in helping engage UNSW alumni with one other and with the playfulness and optimism for life again!

Jelena will be working on various artistic briefs on behalf of the UNSW Alumni Experience Team in 2023. In 2022 Jelena was commissioned by the UNSW Alumni Experience Team to illustrate the 2022 Alumni Award winners (pictured above). To see more of Jelena's work or learn more about Jelena, click here.