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Past Exhibition


16 January 2014 - 13 February 2014


Oliver Sears Gallery is pleased to announce a forthcoming ‘Two Person Exhibition’ of new works by Seán Hillen and Stephanie Rowe.


The sky has long been a subject for artists as well as probably always having been the subject of curiosity and attention. “Clouds always tell a true story,” the Victorian meteorologist Ralph Abercromby wrote “but one that is difficult to read..”. Clouds have also always been a metaphor for doubt. Perhaps that is why when artist Seán Hillen turned his attention and his lens to the clouds, what he found there and photographed, whilst beautiful, is to him still enigmatic, mystifying and slightly disturbing.

 His original motivation in taking them was primarily aesthetic, but also “out of curiosity” when he thought he began to notice particularly angular forms which seemed interesting, but also slightly odd or even anomalous. A year or so ago Hillen decided to humour or even indulge his own curiosity as a project and began photographing the skies more intensely and the result was tens of thousands of images from which a selection of a few hundred have been printed for the exhibition.

The images chosen seem to fall into a few different genres, as Hillen describes them, though he seems unusually unwilling to talk very much about the project. There are some, he points out, that look strangely like glyphs of animals or characters in a lost alphabet.

 Some appear in forms which echo birds and even aeroplanes, and occasionally they seem spread across the sky in a mirror-image of a sprawling airport. One recurring feature Hillen claims seems unlikely to be natural is where a filament of cloud forms a loop or a complicated zig-zagging pattern. Then there are the clouds that began his interest- “rectangular clouds” he has labelled them, and these do seem to defy in particular the rounded puffy cumulus clouds familiar from the ‘Simpsons’ title sequence..

In some cases a distant and oblique view of a bank of cloud shows strangely sharp and right-angled cornered sections apparently taken from its underside as neatly as if with a surgeon’s knife. Hillen exhibited one such photograph recently at the VUE art fair in the RHA and mischievously titled it ‘Manipulated Clouds over Donegal’, confusing several viewers into asking whether it had been computer-manipulated, only to hear that it hadn’t.

In fact Hillen also has a small collection of neatly triangular clouds, and has apparently registered the domain names ‘rectangularclouds.com’ and ‘triangularclouds.com’, intending to post a web gallery of the images for the wider public to peruse.

 (There are in fact long established ‘conspiracy theories’ (though Hillen rejects the term) concerning the use of the HAARP research Programme to modify the weather, which is discussed in its patents; and another known as ‘Project Bluebeam’ which is a fabled-or-real US military plan to create enormous images in the sky as a ‘psy-op’ to bemuse or confuse an enemy..)

 Is Hillen, once described as ‘probably Ireland’s funniest artist’, joking? “I genuinely don’t know what to make of it- but, as usual..,” he gives George Bernard Shaw’s quip; ‘the joke is- I’m serious!’ This could certainly apply again with this latest project.


Link to Seán Hillen's online gallery of approximately 400 images from HOLES IN HEAVEN:  www.rectangularclouds.com


Stephanie Rowe, NEW WORLD, OLD WORLD

Stephanie Rowe is a Canadian painter showing for the first time with the gallery.

 The world that the artist brings onto her very small scale panels is broadly drawn from film stills. Here, an imaginary historical context is drafted to create an intimate and personal legend. The film that triggers the process may be happened upon randomly. The artist may be drawn to a directional style, a particular year and then to a specific subject. She speaks of wanting to depict imagery from the past, her ‘foreign lands’.

 The almost miniature scale of the paintings gives them a physical resemblance to film stills or negatives and there is a certain irony in carving out an image in oil that is the antithesis of the fluid, film making process. It’s an intriguing conceit that brings the viewer in deeply to Stephanie’s world, where objects she may have recently come upon are deftly inserted into the scene.

 The pictures are small and the statements they make are small. The intention is that they stand on their own or talk to each other quietly. In each scene there is a definite tension suspended by the distortion of the found film images that are the genesis for each picture. The jewel like quality of size and craft demand scrutiny.


The exhibition will run until 13th February 2014.

Stephanie Rowe


Oil on panel

10.5 x 13cm