Hillen exposed – Irish artist speaks about his inspiration

By Amy Lewis

Irish artist Seán Hillen speaks to Amy Lewis about his inspiration, themes and plans for the future.

What inspired you to become an artist?

“It happened by accident.  Dad had cameras in the house when I was young so I started playing around with them.  Soon I became addicted to photography.”

How did you create your first montage?

“I was taking photos and printing them myself as it was cheaper.  When I went to study in London, I had all of these good photographs.  However, the Sunday supplements in the 1980’s printed the work of the world’s best photographers and people didn’t want to see any others.  I grew up with Pop art and this influenced me to experiment.  I began to mix tourist photos of London with the ‘Troubles’ pieces and that’s how I got into collage.”

What inspires the underlying themes of your work, particularly those behind the 4 series in the ReViewed exhibition?

I don’t preconceive my pictures and I feel that this makes them more interesting and gives them their own life.  I just begin with the materials and a title, if I’m lucky.  In the ‘Troubles’ series, I was trying to communicate my earlier experiences with the broader public.  ‘Irelantis’ provided an antidote to that by portraying an idealised fantasy world.  ‘Searching For Evidence’ is from an era when I was becoming interested in the deep politics of the world.  ‘WHATS WRONG?…’ dealt with the aftermath of that and communicated political realisations.

Do you have a favourite piece?

“The simple ones as they are the most effective.  My picture ‘The Queen of Heaven appears at Newgrange’ has so little to it and yet, it is so powerful.  I also love when they have meanings that I discover long after their creation.  I love ‘The Great Pyramids…’ picture. Putting the figure in the foreground places the viewer in the situation of seeing the magical pyramids.  This puts the human into a position of power.  I’d never really thought about it until recently.”

Are you working on anything at the moment?

“I like how various cultures have many different names for their god and I am toying with the idea of a series called ‘One Hundred Names of God Made of Foam’.  I’m also working on my book at the moment.  Finally, I have a big museum acquisition later in the year.  I can’t reveal what it is yet but it’s going to be very exciting!”



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