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Biography of Seán Hillen

Born in 1961 in Newry, 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 with a signed archival-quality miniprint included at Photo Museum Ireland here.
Read an excellent review at the Irish Times here.)
His 1980’s photo-collage works, based on those documentary photographs mixed with tourist, toy packaging and fantasy material were at different times highly praised and widely published, then heavily censored but are considered to have been highly influential.
Fintan O’Toole wrote that they “remain the best expression of what it felt like to be in Northern Ireland during the Troubles…” One collage features as frontispiece to the Imperial War Museum’s recent book ‘Art from Contemporary Conflict’. (Read more here at the British Council site; ‘History Through The Lens’)

Sean Hillen - About

The gently post-apocalyptic and visionary ‘IRELANTIS’ series begun after he moved back to Ireland from London in the early ’90s, were published as a now-rare book in 1999 with an introduction by Fintan O’Toole and launched with an opening speech by Seamus Heaney. 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 ‘Irish Art since 1910’; and the subject of academic interest in cultural, sociological and other studies. 
(Read more
 here at the British Journal of Photography site; ‘The Wonderful World of Sean Hillen’, and here at The Guardian.)

His series in the 2000’s; “Searching for Evidence..” and in the 2010’s; “What’s Wrong? with The Consolations of Genius..” were related to the phenomena of ‘cognitive dissonance’ and conflicting theories in the wake 

of the 9/11 events and were influenced by his personal experience co-designing the official Memorial to the controversial Omagh bombing; and the death of an acquaintance in the London 7/7 bombings. (Read more here at the RTE website; ’21st. Century Ireland in 21 Artworks’.)
He is working on a number of new collage series; some of which will he hopes to further collage into a large-scale work loosely based on the Sistine Chapel.

His work is in many private and significant public collections, 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 prizewinning full-length documentary on his life; ‘Tomorrow is Saturday’ was first broadcast in Ireland in late 2021 and is now available to rent on the IFI@Home Player, is also on a growing number of cable networks internationally and is coming to Netflix Europe in December 2022.
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.

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