clair welcomes

Seán Hillen

Trouble with The Glacier on Henry St., 1996 From Irelantis series 21 x 14 cm Facsimile limited edition of 5 + 1 artist proof 2016 Print 1 /5



1986-87 Slade School of Fine Art, London, Higher Diploma in Fine Art
1981-84 London College of Printing, BA (Hons): Photography, Film & TV
1979-80 Belfast College of Art, Foundation Studies

Recognitions | AWARDS

“A genuinely original mind … his dry survivor’s wit will carry him far”
(Sarah Kent ‘Young masters’ Time Out, 1987)

“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)

”Hillen fictionalizes the Troubles through various devices. He has long been fascinated with the utopian tradition and its dystopian counterpart, as the ironical titles indicate: 4 Ideas for a New Town sketches the promise of a better world; Northern Sunsets promises romantic landscapes while the Apparition series half-mockingly announces salvation. Like most utopias, Seàn Hillen’s imaginary worlds are underlain by satirical intent; the fragments of documentary photographs pasted onto the mock utopian scenes reintroduce the reality principle. Resorting to imagination and fiction is a means of resistance.”
(Valérie Morrison, Univesité Bourgogne Franche-Comté)

“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, Univesité 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 Associate Professor of Fine Art 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 UCL

“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,

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

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

Selected solo and two-person exhibitions
2018 ‘Melancholy Witness’, Kamera 8, Wexford, Ireland
Troubles, Linen Hall Library in Belfast.
2017 Seán Hillen : 100 Works opened in the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast
2016 The Easter Uprising 1916 in 2016 Centenary, 24th – 29th April 2016 Seán Hillen
An online exhibition of acclaimed photographs & collages from ‘Troubles’-era Northern Ireland
35-Year Survey Exhibition, Golden Thread Gallery Belfast and tour
Commissioned by collector Larry Lambe, the original collage has just gone on touring exhibition:
‘1916 in Contemporary Art’ : –
Galway City Museum; September 2016
Crawford Gallery Cork; 24 June – 24 August 2016
Toradh Gallery Co. Meath; 15 March-29 April 2016
2012 National Photo Archive Dublin ‘The Seán Hillen Collection’
2012 “Seán Hillen Re-Viewed”, Copper House Gallery. Dublin, Donegal
2011/2014 Oliver Sears Gallery, PhotoIreland Festival,
2010 National Photo Archive Dublin with Kennard Philips
2010 Alliance Francaise, Dublin
2008 Irish Gallery of Photography, Dublin
2005 Dublin City Council Gallery
Stone Gallery, Dublin
2004 Paris, Mois de la Photo
2003 ‘’ web & billboard campaign
2000 Docklands & Greenwich Festival.
1999 Two man show, Ko-Raw Gallery, London
1998 Gallery of Photography, Dublin.
1996 Newry Arts Centre; Clotworthy House, Antrim.
1995 Anya von Gösseln Gallery, Dublin.
Limerick City Art Gallery.
Gallery of Photography, Dublin and tour
1994 Akehurst Gallery, London

Selected group exhibitions
2019 The Other Side – Borderlands Contemporary Irish Art, Curated by Anne Mager and includes work by Enda Bowe, Willie Doherty, Jesse Jones, Dragana Jurišiæ und Kathy Prendergast, Dortmunder U Centre for Art, Dortmund, Germany
‘Cut/Paste – Photomontage Art in Ireland’, Source Arts Centre, Thurles, Ireland
“Searching For Evidence.. In The Rose Garden” is included in the exhibition ’21st. Century Ireland in 21 Artworks’ in the Glebe Gallery in association with RTÉ and Earagail Arts Festival.
“Two Giants at The Giant’s Causeway, IRELANTIS” was selected for The Royal Hibernian Academy summer exhibition
2018 ‘Border’ curated by the Irish Gallery of Photography, Regional Cultural Centre, Donegal
A smaller version of the exhibition ran in the Irish Gallery of Photography, Dublin in July-Sept.
2017 The Otherworld Hall, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Co. Meath Ireland
2016 ‘Border Town exhibition’, Newry & Mourne Museum; ‘Bagenal’s Castle’, Ireland
2015 ‘Finders and Keepers’ an exhibition of artworks selected from the State Art Collection,
dlr LexIcon, Dún Laoghaire, Ireland
FORMAT Festival UK
2015 DRAWINGS From The Irish State Collection. Limerick City Gallery
2014 ‘Art of The Troubles’ Ulster Museum
2014 Éigse Open Exhibition
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 ‘PhotoIreland’ 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 Two man show, Ko-Raw Gallery, London
‘Revealing Views’, Royal Festival Hall, London; Royal Photographic Society, Bath
1998 Art Exchange/WallSt., art fair, New York
‘Global Housewarming’, Melbourne; Temple Bar International Print Show
1997 Temple Bar Public Art Tour

2019 Boyle Arts Festival, Ireland
“Home+Less”, Bealtaine Festival, Dingle, Kerry
Two works were included in the exhibition
2018 Collagistas Festival, Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin
2017 The newly-republished (in paperback form) ‘Melancholy Witness’ was selected from thousands of entries for inclusion in the public photobook library at Belfast Photo Festival
2016 ‘Melancholy Witness & Troubles collages, Custom House Studios, Westport Arts Festival Studios, Ireland
‘VIEW IRELAND’, Landskrona Festival, Sweden


Irelantis – Set of 8 postcards by Sean Hillen
“Searching For Evidence.. in The Rose Garden, Tralee” is on the cover of a significant new book from Oxford University Press on Samuel Beckett: ‘Samuel Beckett and The Politics of Aftermath’ by James McNaughton “Illustrates how Beckett’s work draws from, and responds to, political conflicts such as the executions after the Irish Civil War, Nazi newspapers and propaganda, and war atrocities ”
‘Melancholy Witness’ the book of Seán’s ‘Troubles’-era photographs republished as a paperback by The History Press, May 2017
Forthcoming book: “The Wonderful World of Seán Hillen” (designed by Erik Kessels) 2016
Book: ‘Melancholy Witness’ The History Press 2013
U.S. edition: Trafalgar Press, 2014
Catalogue: “WHAT’S WRONG? with The Consolations of Genius..” 2011
Catalogue: Irish Cultural Centre Paris 2005 ‘Photomontages 1983 – 1993’
Book: ‘IRELANTIS, collage works, 2000