Seán Hillen: New Work

  November 2008

Photograph “Who is my enemy?” by Sen Hillen.

A new body of work by the important Irish artist Seán Hillen will be shown for the first time in the Gallery of Photography, Dublin. In this eagerly anticipated new work, Hillen brings his lively visual intelligence to bear on contested myths circulating in the post 9/11 global community.

At a major exhibition of his work in London in 1999, Hillen befriended a picture researcher, whose name he recognised as one of the victims on the No.30 bus in the ‘7/7’ attacks in London. This caused him to research more deeply these events and resulted in this new body of work, which pick up on the new lexicon surrounding recent controversies in political history, as “False-Flag Operations” and “Controlled Demolition” loom in the contemporary psyche.


These pictures have come about in the following way: Firstly, I am as usual, ‘following my nose’, and doing as Joyce suggested; “wipe your glosses with what-you-know”.

Though my mother used to ask me “Seanie, why can’t you make pictures of lovely flowers?” it seems to me that my job is to make things that are beautiful and which also, though it may be paradoxical, speak to their age and its peculiarities, in the hope that something universal and worthwhile lies there.

My early work concerned itself with the contradictions, the black comedies, and the myths related to the Northern Conflict, and I discovered the writings of Robert Anton Wilson and his notion of ‘Reality Tunnels’ – the idea that we are all, by human nature, severely limited in our comprehension and apprehension of the world by the web of language and ideas we have acquired and accreted and which forms our ‘reality tunnel’ – and that our job, to become more human, may be to look outside of the cave and beyond the flickering shadows.

The events of 9-11 and afterwards have been life-changing for most and life-ending for far too many. Of course no-one sane really wants to look too closely at these things, yet it seems to me we have a duty to look as closely as we are able.  Anyone who has lived through the NI conflict, (including the citizens of Dublin and Monaghan), will have learned that there exists such a thing as the ‘Dirty War’ and that, as Oscar put it, “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure, and never simple”. They will also know that, as it has always been taught, conflicts are won and lost primarily in the minds of the combatants and observers and that psychological warfare is of the utmost importance today.