Seán Hillen




“Images that give a chilling indication of what it must be like to live in perpetual trauma.”
(Sarah Kent Time Out, 1989)

“There are no Northern Ireland jokes, because you can’t joke about something that never ends.’ Impossibility of resolution creates a mental distancing. One artist who is prepared to collapse that distance is Sean Hillen.”
(Siraj Izhar CIRCA Art Journal, 1993)

“A fine postmodern satirist, Hillen offers here a provocative interpretation of the conflict by pasting together real and fictitious, serious and comical, Irish and English or American images. Although the hybrid scenes he composes toy with the utopian genre that is so dear to him and are irresistibly humorous, they convey a fierce criticism of the Northern-Irish conflict and its mass-media representations.”
(Valérie Morrison, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté)

“A photomontage adventure in a dreamlike universe… a dialogue between the original document, raw witness to events, and a personal vision which transcends reality.”
(Hugo van Offel, Art Actuel Magazine, 2004)

“Hillen transcends and subverts the traditional tool of propaganda in order better to reveal the complexity of history.. his photomontages bear witness to a precarious balance between memory and forgetting.”
(Soko Phay-Vakalis, Paris 8 University, CIRCA Art Journal)

“Very, very rarely have I seen pieces as frighteningly relevant to today’s world as these are.. The size of this exhibition and the press coverage it has received is in direct inverse proportion to its excellence.. I can honestly say that in these pieces we see the best possible reason for the existence of art. Absolutely not to be missed.”
(Pi Magazine, University College London)

“This man is a national treasure!”
(Roy Foster, Carrol Professor of Irish History at Oxford)

“There’s more in Sean’s head, as I said, than a gun would take out… He’s a really remarkable artist, trained at the Slade… He sees himself I think as a satirist in the Swiftian mode, and admires writers like Flann O’Brien, and that humour with serious intent is very exciting. I was going round the exhibition giggling with glee, and there aren’t many exhibitions of serious art that make you laugh.. well sorry in fact there are quite a few, but Sean actually intends to… He’s a very very clever man.”
(BBC Northern Ireland, 1994)

Irish Times ‘Culture Shock’ by Fintan O’Toole, 2011 
Independent Journal of Interdisciplinary Arts, 2016
British Journal of Photography, 2018


2015  FSAS / Arts Disability Ireland Mentoring Award
2001  Firestation Artists Studios Residency
1990  Winner, Toshiba / UK Design Council ‘Year of Invention’
1989  Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust Award
1988  Laura Ashley Foundation Gift
1986/’87  Prankerd-Jones Memorial Prize, Slade School, London

Selected solo and two-person exhibitions

2018  Melancholy Witness, Kamera 8, Wexford, Ireland
2018  Troubles, Linen Hall Library, Belfast
2017  Seán Hillen: 100 Works, Golden Thread, Belfast
2016  The Easter Uprising 1916 in 2016 Centenary, Golden Thread, Belfast
2016  1916 in Contemporary Art, Galway City Museum; Crawford Gallery, Cork; Toradh Gallery Co., Meath
2012  The Seán Hillen Collection, National Photographic Archive, Dublin
2012  Seán Hillen Re-Viewed, Copper House Gallery, Dublin
2011/2014  Oliver Sears Gallery, Photo Ireland Festival
2010  National Photographic Archive, Dublin, with Kennard Philips
2010  Alliance Française, Dublin
2008  Irish Gallery of Photography, Dublin
2005  Dublin City Council Gallery
2005  Stone Gallery, Dublin
2004  Mois de la Photo, Paris
2000  Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, London
1999  Ko-Raw Gallery, London
1998  Gallery of Photography, Dublin
1996  Newry Arts Centre, Clotworthy House, Antrim
1995  Anya von Gösseln Gallery, Dublin
1995  Limerick City Gallery of Art, Ireland
1995  Gallery of Photography, Dublin (and tour)
1994  Akehurst Gallery, London

Selected GROUP exhibitions

2019  The Other Side – Borderlands in Contemporary Irish Art, Dortmunder U, Dortmund
2019  Cut/Paste – Photomontage Art in Ireland, Source Arts Centre, Thurles, Ireland
2019  21st Century Ireland in 21 Artworks, Glebe Gallery, Earagail Arts Festival
2019  The Royal Hibernian Academy Summer Exhibition, Dublin
2018  Border, Regional Cultural Centre, Donegal; Irish Gallery of Photography, Dublin
2017  The Otherworld Hall, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Co., Meath
2016  Border Town, Newry & Mourne Museum, Ireland
2015  Finders and Keepers, works from the State Art Collection, Dún Laoghaire Lexicon, Ireland
2015  FORMAT Festival, UK
2015  Drawings from the Irish State Collection, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Ireland
2014  Art of The Troubles, Ulster Museum, Belfast
2014  Éigse Open, VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow
2013  Picturing Derry, Derry City of Culture
2012  Born in 1987, Photographer’s Gallery, London
2011  The Swimming Naked Prophecy (touring)
2011  Photography from the Irish State Collection (touring)
2010  Art Chicago
2010  Photo Ireland, Dublin
2010  Wildly Different Things, Dublin
2010  CRUNCHTIME 2010, York, UK
2009  Kaunas Foto, Lithuania; Birr, Ireland
2008  Lodz, Poland; Pingyao, China
2007  Collective Histories of Northern Irish Art, Golden Thread, Belfast
2006  RHA Annual (invited)
2005  ‘Contemporary Art from Ireland’, European Central Bank, Frankfurt
2004  ‘Contemporary Irish Art’, Irish Presidency Building, Brussels
2003  Website ’Untitled Umbrella Project’, Darklight New Media Festival, Dublin
2001  Catalyst Arts, Belfast
2000  Cache, Hales Gallery, London
1999  Revealing Views, Royal Festival Hall, London; Royal Photographic Society, Bath
1998  New Art Exchange, Wall Street Art Fair, New York
1998  Global Housewarming, Melbourne; Temple Bar International Print Show, Dublin
1997  Temple Bar Public Art Tour


2019  Boyle Arts Festival, Ireland
2019  Home+Less, Bealtaine Festival, Dingle, Kerry
2018  Collagistas Festival, Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin
2017  Melancholy Witness, Belfast Photo Festival
2016  Melancholy Witness Troubles, Custom House Studios, Westport Arts Festival
2016  View Ireland, Landskrona Festival, Sweden


2018  Book Cover: Searching For The Rose Garden, Tralee, Oxford University Press
2017  Book: Melancholy Witness, The History Press
2016  Book: The Wonderful World of Seán Hillen, Erik Kessels
2015  Postcards collection: Irelantis, Akehurst Press
2013  Book: Melancholy Witness, The History Press; U.S. edition: Trafalgar Press, 2014
2011  Catalogue: WHAT’S WRONG? with The Consolations of Genius
2005  Catalogue: Photomontages 1983 – 1993, Irish Cultural Centre, Paris
2000  Book: Irelantis, collage works