Press and other quotes about the artist Sean Hillen
“I admire them very much, for knowing their place, in all senses.
For knowing their place in our history, knowing their place in the world, knowing their paces as well as their place. For their light touch, for their great cultivated allusiveness, and for their technical aplomb.. and this is the total technique of these pictures, that they are just there, no messing.
So, I feel so at home with them, I want to sign ‘S.H.’ under them, but it has been done already..”
Seamus Heaney opening the first IRELANTIS exhibition, 1995
“a genuinely original mind...his dry survivor’s wit will carry him far” Sarah Kent ‘Young masters’ Time Out 1987
“superbly realized.. so arresting and so memorable.. an expression entirely worthy of our national dilemma.. a fine and provocative show.. work whose evocations we should ponder whilst paying the tribute of admiration”
CIRCA Art Journal 1996
“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 2005
“instead of taking the myth out of romantic postcards, he puts a lot more in. Instead of cutting the dreamscape down to size, he ups the ante all the way to a cosmic extravaganza that is at once joyously funny, deeply disorienting and dizzyingly rapturous”
Fintan O’Toole 'Introduction to IRELANTIS' 1999
“The less well-known work he did before Irelantis remains the best expression of what it felt like to be in Northern Ireland during the Troubles..
In 2004, Hillen even achieved a kind of official sanction when his work was among that exhibited at the European Council headquarters in Brussels to mark the Irish presidency of the EU. Increasingly absorbed into the mainstream as he thus was, it became too easy to forget that Hillen is a subversive and genuinely disturbing artist..”
Fintan O’Toole (Chief Critic, Irish Times) 2011
“images that give a chilling indication of what it must be like to live in perpetual trauma” Sarah Kent Time Out 1989
"A hurricane background demonstrates the ever-present threat of natural disaster, while a partially demolished building carries echoes of war-torn domesticity as it towers over the figures of two women in 1960s miniskirts and boots admiring the roses in an Irish tourist spot. It’s this combination of surrealism, horror, humour and beauty, as a response to anxiety, that marks out Hillen’s work. ...
Time has passed to reveal Hillen as a kind of seer, a man ahead of his time.
His layered images of ancient monuments and tourist spots blended with John Hinde postcard scenes of an idealised Ireland were always oddly apocalyptic. His recent works continue to act as a warning sign."
RTE "21st Century Ireland in 21 Artworks" 2019
“Sean Hillen’s B-Movie interpretation (of Drawing Rings) suits the song perfectly” NME on Super Furry Animals DVD 2005
“acclaimed artist.. a delightful new book: joyful- joyous- so charming- fun- refreshing in its total lack of cynicism” Sunday Tribune 1999
“a deliciously exotic take on remembered Ireland, hailed as an instant classic” The Dubliner 2002
“puts the past, the present, and the future at out finger-tips.. and reflects how we are changing” Irish News 1999
“it was a pleasure do find Sean Hillen’s photomontages” Jorg Colberg CONSCIENTIOUS photography weblog
“Un artista unico nel suo genere” Macchagraphic blog
“One of Ireland’s greatest living artists with a surrealist bent” irishherault blog 2009
“Sean Hillen is also an amazing photomonteur” A History of Photomontage- Beachy’s Blog 2007
“Impressive stuff, check it out”
Human Resources blog 2009
“I bought one of Sean Hillen’s.. there’s loads to look at... most of my friends have liked it, they’ve all commented on it.. I’d happily buy something else”
Helen Baxendale TIMES London Guide Days Out 1999
“Each of Hillen’s images undoes space and time so that ‘Irelantis’ exists outside synchronicity and diachronicity, but remembers both"
Colin Graham ‘Deconstructing Ireland’ 2001
“in the very best of his works we stand as if in our own dream; unsure of the rational relations between the different visual elements, but immersed in the richness of the connotations and the integrity of the experience”
Kevin McAleer Hot Press 1994
“a national treasure”
Roy Foster, Carrol Professor of Irish History at Oxford and Yeats' biographer
“behind Hillen’s often hilarious vision lie serious questions.. The Irish Studies Course at St. Mary’s aims to be equally thought-provoking..”
St. Mary’s College University of Surrey website
“creating an extraordinary image of life under occupation.”
University of Washington ‘Collage Structures’ course 2004
“Sean Hillen’s production design and Paul Keogan’s lighting design reflect both the author’s purpose and Barabbas’s subversion excellently.” Irish Times “Sean Hillen’s set is excellent” Irish Independent “a production of astonishing invention and unalloyed pleasure” Tribune Magazine – “one of the best productions seen in Ireland- or perhaps anywhere- recently” Sunday Times Event Guide 1998
“Hillen’s vision is heroic, and there is nothing snide in his flights of fancy” The Examiner 1999
“The map is not the place seems diminished by Hillen’s contra-assertion that the place is not the place either” In Dublin Magazine 1996
“a fiercely original tone.. one of the few must-have artbooks” Hot Press 1999
“Sean Hillen evokes a world of juxtapositions even more incongruous than the contents of the Millenium Dome” Creative Camera Magazine
“Deep in the abyss of Sean Hillen’s soul rests Irelantis, an imaginary Ireland bigger than anything the Department of Arts & Culture could invent.” Sunday Times Culture Ireland 1996
“On one level, Hillen’s images stretch the mind and imagination of the viewer.. on another they challenge us by combining with with wonder... This volume .. certainly reveals an artist endowed with what Heaney called ‘a power to open unexpected and unedited communications between our nature and the nature of the world we inhabit’ ” CIRCA magazine 2000
“Oh My God – Good Irish Art! Sean Hillen’s work has been turning us on for some time- you may have come upon his unmistakeable brand of post-pop collage in many’s a place – Guinness, for example, plastering it all over their website... something strange and beautiful altogether.. take a trip!”
DSide magazine 2000
“..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 London
“Sean Hillen’s latest collection of photo-montages will not disappoint. Fans of his work include The Edge and members of the Guinness family. There are pieces hanging in the Attorney General’s and Taoiseach’s offices. ” In Dublin Magazine
“Sean Hillen is the only person here who plays it for laughs... irresistibly funny”
Time Out 1999
“Hillen’s unique perspective on the world makes you smile and look again.. a revolutionary plagiarist cutting and pasting our images of ourselves into our fantasies, crossing the boundaries between what is real, what we think is real and what we have the potential to imagine..” Global Doras 1999
“For sheer enjoyment Sean Hillen wins the Golden Scissors for his cut’n’paste marvels” Sunday Times Critics’ Choice of ’96
“This Year’s Must Sees: Lo-Fi Artist Sean Hillen: The image-maker most likely to turn us off the dystopia featured in his work, and on to glue and paste” Luke Clancy Irish Times Trendspotting 1997
“.. yet none of Scotland’s selected focus down on their country’s ethos as pertinently as Sean Hillen’s absurdist photo-montages of an Ireland imploding on its past whilst seeking international acclaim.” Review The Irish Times 1998
“brilliantly witty.. as spellbinding and as spectacular as any ancient land of fairy tale or fable” The Event Guide 1997
“part Heartfield, part Warhol” Dublin Event Guide
“ ‘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
“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
“Seán Hillen has brilliantly reinvented John Hinde's landscapes of Ireland. The artist doesn't walk across the room, he scampers. And when he laughs, as he frequently does, it's of a timbre that makes the other people in the foyer miss a beat from their own conversations, pause and turn to look at him.”
Rosita Boland Irish Times 1999
“Seamus Heaney likes his art work very much, it's disturbing, funny, irreverent, and it is very good indeed. I think the suffragettes probably would have been proud of him”
Sean Rafferty BBC Radio Northern Ireland 1994
“I was thinking about Sean Hillen recently as his pictures kind of represent the current Ireland to me. Everything is just a little screwed up and while I’ve experienced recession before, this time it’s different. I have a feeling that nothing will ever be the same and so his Irelantis pictures have a nostalgia for me in that they celebrate both the old and the new Ireland” missioninspiration blog 2009
“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
“there is something transcendant about Sean Hillen’s vision”
Cut ‘n’ Paste History of Photomontage
“engaging, amusing and extremely accessible” The Tribune Magazine 1995
“This project provides a timely reassessment aspects of Irish identity without resorting to didacticism or the uncritical repitition of national archetypes” Catherine Leen Sunday Times 2003
“but the star of this eclectic show is post pop artist Sean Hillen..” William Cook What’s On London 1991
“this young photographer cranks up his documentary pictures to volume ten” Paris Voice 2004
“the important Irish artist Sean Hillen.. eagerly anticipated.. one of the most significant Irish artists of his generation, the Omagh Memorial has received both popular and critical acclaim.. as the irelantis images have come to be seen as the the most vivid and emblematic of the hopes and fears of Celtic Tiger Ireland, his works from the ‘Troubles’ era have become widely known and and studied as ‘masterworks’ of the medium”
Irish Gallery of Photography 2009
“Sean Hillen’s contemporary photomontage work has a definitive beauty, despite its paradoxical, almost nightmarish, quality” Sunday Business Post 2008
“Some Old Artists With Potential: Hans Haacke, John Heartfield, Hannah Hoch, Raoul Hausmann, Sean Hillen” ‘New Artists With Most Potential’ banksyforum 2007
“These are real collages, made with scissors and glue. You can get lost in the images he produces.” Schulze & Webbe Ltd. Presentation 2008
“Master of the pastiche.. impressive..” BladBlog 2008
“a vision of whimsy that conjures up Sean Hillen’s work Irelantis” BBC Culture Show Blog 2009
“an exhibition by Sean Hillen, who might be Ireland’s funniest artist..” thoughtwax twitter
“powerful political photomontage in the tradition of John Heartfield and Hannah Hoch” Stumbleupon 2008
“the more you see of his quirky work the more you will like it, and the mind that creates it” Guest Collector Recommendation Irish Arts Review 1998
fruit-pastille colours that light up the visual centres of your brain..
Mic Moroney Irish Times
..it is something of a delight to see Seán Hillen’s book Melancholy Witness.
Hillen is a photographer and artist best known for his playful photocollage work Irelantis, poking fun at the myths of Ireland. In Melancholy Witness we see his images of the Troubles, some taken for use in his collage work but many taken for the best possible documentary motive: because they were there. The photographs now form part of the permanent collection of the National Library of Ireland..
For all the right reasons, while leafing through this book a saying came to mind from the great Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt: all the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for an inability to notice. This volume is something of a gem. In a world of image overload it represents a triumph of substance over technique. The work deserves the attention of all of us from Down Here who seldom or never went Up There..
Frank Miller, picture editor, Irish Times
"Sean Hillen works in a space even Francis Bacon would tidy, creates collages that would give someone with 20:20 vision a headache, and is as much a cultural institution as a working artist.."
Cora Burke LeCool April 26 2013
“Photomontage is immediate, political and full of protest, and in Hillen’s hands, incredibly potent.”
Jeanette Farrell LeCool July 19 2010