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The Goddess Appears In Newry 1993

Sean Hillen was eight years old and living in Newry when "The Troubles", as we British are wont to call Northern Ireland's civil war, started. It says much for his senses of humour, irony, and wonderment at the wider world that he produced a long series of montages called "Newry Gargarin". Even in this early work, rooted in the grubby and mundane, there is something transcendent about Sean Hillen's vision.

This personal perspective is strengthened by the fact that he is a photographer, generating much of his own raw material. Another favourite source is the picture postcard, a telling combination of the ordinary and the sublimely romantic. His technique involves a scalpel and a microscope, but the intention is not artifice: many of Hillen's photomontages don't fit easily in their frames. He wants you to know that these have been made, and not just taken.

After studying at art school in London, he now lives in Dublin, and his more recent work, which is highlighted here, illustrates a more settled Ireland, after the "peace process." His mythical Irelantis is a place where anything goes: wild flights of fancy, musings on the place of the new Ireland in the worlds of politics and imagination.

There are still the undercurrents of foreboding, but now the sources of danger are not parochial, but much more universal and even grandiose. Meteors and maelstroms are a threat to us all on a vulnerable planet, but it is to the whole planet that Hillen now looks for his inspiration. He seems to be saying: tread carefully and look after this wonderful place because we live in an age when we are fortunate enough to still have all this, and it may not always be so.


Newry Gargarin 9 1992

Sean Hillen's current websites show the scope of his photographic, as well as montage, work:

The Troubles Photos

The Umbrella Project

Reviews and prices of digital cameras at Digital Camera HQ


Sean Hillen



The Oracle at O'Connell St. Bridge


The Great Cliffs of Collage Green


Sun, Sand and Cement in Temple Bar


The Lia Fáil of Waterford


An Unfortunate and Impossible Explosion