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Artist's voyage to 'Irelantis' goes on display

TRINITY College perched on the Cliffs of Moher, Egyptian pyramids on the banks of Carlingford Lough, and Moby Dick loose in the Liffey.

The photomontages by Irish artist Sean Hillen reinvent classic postcard images of Ireland by superimposing the bizarre and the unexpected.

Now, 20 years after they were created, the collages, some of which hang in the offices of Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the attorney general, are to be gathered together for a new exhibition.

"All the original landscapes are from John Hinde postcards sent to RTE for postal competitions and then sold on to dealers. So they had a whole other life before I came to use them," Mr Hillen said.

Called 'Irelantis', his images have featured in several academic studies of Ireland and were lauded by eminent figures, including Nobel prize-winner Seamus Heaney.

"Someone said 'Irelantis' embodied the dreams and aspirations of Celtic Tiger Ireland," said Mr Hillen.

The artist's work with the postcards began while at art school in London, when he began superimposing images of the Troubles on to postcards of Queen Elizabeth and Buckingham Palace.


However, with the results deemed too political for UK galleries, he decided to do something different after returning to Ireland in 1993.

"I really wanted to make something uplifting, optimistic, even dare I say visionary and even healing," Mr Hillen said.

Originally called 'Ancient Monuments in Ireland', it was Mr Hillen's girlfriend who came up with the title 'Irelantis'.

"A good title was all I needed," he said. " I went off and made about 30 or 35 collages between 1994 and 1998. Most of the 28 originals are now in private collections. One of the funniest things that happened was an American tourist asked me where they could get a bus to see the pyramids I put on the banks of Carlingford?"

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'Return to Irelantis' runs at the Alliance Francaise on Kildare Street, Dublin, from February 11-April 10.

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