The Great Pyramids of Carlingford Lough, IRELANTIS (1994)
Jesus Appears in Newry (Security Forces Investigate) (1992)
The Oracle at O'Connell Bridge, Dublin, IRELANTIS (1995)
The Great Eruption Viewed from the Liffey, Dublin, IRELANTIS (1995)
What's Wrong? with the Consolations of Genius #7 (2011)
Collecting Meteorites at Knowth, Co Meath, IRELANTIS (1996)
What's Wrong? with the Consolations of Genius #1 (2011)
Who Is My Enemy? (1987)
The Virgins Appears Above London (1993)
What's Wrong? with the Consolations of Genius #8 (2011)
St. Faustina Appears in Londonewry (Miraculously Preventing the Illegal Photography of Members of the Security Forces) (1993)
Four Ideas for a New Town, #1 (1985)
Newry Gagarin #8 (1992)
Born in 1961 in Newry, Seán Hillen lives and works in Dublin. He studied at Belfast College of Art, the London College of Printing and at the Slade School.
His works often involve photography and traditional paper photo-collage and have often used humour to deal with serious subjects. His earliest works were black and white documentary photos taken starting in his teens, during the "Troubles" era of conflict in Northern Ireland, which have since been acquired as a Separate Permanent Collection by the National Library of Ireland Photographic Archive, and a selection were published as a book: Melancholy Witness by The History Press UK and republished by Trafalgar Square Press in the US. It was a Publisher's Weekly "Annual Pick" of 2014. See and buy the book at The Book Depository here, or a signed copy with an archival-quality mini-print included here at Photo Museum Ireland. Read an excellent review here at the Irish Times.
His 1980s photo-collage works in series like "Newry Gagarin..." and "Londonewry...," based on those documentary photographs mixed with tourist, toy packaging and fantasy material, were at different times highly praised and widely published, at other times heavily censored. Irish Times' Chief Critic Fintan O'Toole wrote that they "remain the best expression of what it felt like to be in Northern Ireland during the Troubles…"
The gently post-apocalyptic and visionary "IRELANTIS" series begun after Hillen moved back to Ireland from London in the early 90s and were launched with an opening speech by Seamus Heaney and published as a now rare book in 1999, with an introduction by Fintan O’Toole, who wrote about them again in 2011 here. Mostly based on the already hyperreal postcards of John Hinde, they have themselves since become part of the Irish cultural landscape, featuring on over 40 book and magazine covers: as "Figure 2" in the recent Photography and Ireland; on the cover of the recent definitive Art in Ireland since 1910; and the subject of academic interest in cultural, sociological and other studies. Read "The Nation of IRELANTIS: Ireland as Elsewhere" by Jennifer Way at the Journal of European Popular Culture.
Hillen's series in the 2000s, "Searching for Evidence...," and in the 2010s, “What’s Wrong? with The Consolations of Genius...,” were related to the phenomena of "cognitive dissonance" and "conspiracy theories" in the wake of the 9/11 events and influenced by his personal experience co-designing the official Memorial to the controversial 1998 Omagh bombing, and the death of an acquaintance in the London 7/7 2005 bombings. (Read more at the RTE website: "21st Century Ireland in 21 Artworks."
Hillen is working on a number of new collage series, one including kittens in the Sistine Chapel. His work is in many significant private and public collections, including the Imperial War Museum, London, and National Gallery of Ireland, and he has won several awards and prizes, including major Arts Council Bursary Awards in 2015 and 2022. He has given many interviews, been a visiting lecturer in many institutions and to different audiences, and appeared on a number of panels.
A new full-length documentary on his life, Tomorrow Is Saturday, is now showing on Netflix Europe. Broadcast in Ireland in late 2021, it won the Irish Doc Fest "Audience Choice Award" and the Royal Television Society "Factual Programme of the Year." It is now available to rent in Ireland on the IFI@Home Player, and also on a growing number of cable networks internationally.
A new book of his collected collages, designed by Erik Kessels, is nearing publication. He is represented internationally by CLAIRbyKahn Gallery.
Watch a short film about Seán by Curious Dog Films at Vimeo.