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Last updated 18th April 2024


Dr Simon Woolham has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Manchester Metropolitan University and an MA from Chelsea College of Art in London (awarded 2000).

Simon’s practice as an artist, curator and teaching specialism is centred around expanded drawing research and methodology and this was the focus of his practice-led PhD from 2012 and awarded in 2016 at Manchester Metropolitan University. The PhD explored walking (in the broadest sense) and narrative in physical, virtual and psychological space, expanding on the notion of an artists’ residency of the mind.

Between 2000 and 2012 Simon exhibited widely, including a residency and solo exhibition at The Lowry in Salford and Chapter Gallery in Cardiff, as well as numerous national and international group exhibitions. In 2008 he was included in the first Tatton Park Biennial and in 2006 he was Artist-in-Residence at Baltic – Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, he won the Mostyn Open 11 at Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno in 2001.

Simon continues to develop his practice as an artist and researcher and since 2012 he has been curator and artistic programmer of the artist-led gallery PAPER in Manchester. He has presented papers at conferences both nationally and internationally, most recently at ‘Mapping Culture’ a conference in Coimbra, Portugal, and a ‘Deep Mapping’ conference at UCL in London.

Recently, Simon lead a project called ‘Art Work Placement’ with the innovative Arts organisation Fermynwoods Contemporary Art in Northamptonshire, whose ethos is ‘infiltrating the everyday’. The ‘Art Work Placement’ project is directly informed by Simon’s particular area of research, generating narrative, and also explores how artists’ processes and ideas can shed light on traditional institutional practices. In this instance, Simon tested virtual and digital platforms with employees of a mental care institution, in relation to histories and sense of place.

Simon teaches undergraduates across BA (Hons) Contemporary Art and Illustration at the University of Huddersfield.

Research Expertise and Interests

Dr Simon Woolham’s research interest are based on questions that emerges from his art practice.

Simon’s ongoing research, collaborative artistic residency and website In Search Of The Shortcuts is a practice-led project carried out from the perspective of an artist. By engaging in a practical and theoretical analysis of how walking and narrative interact in physical, virtual and psychological realms, it asserts that this interaction is vital for defining space. A self-initiated artistic residency is central to the methodology of the project and enriched by the knowledge gained through the research. In Search Of The Shortcuts situates the past in the present, a shared affective experience around the suburban spaces of Simon’s childhood in Wythenshawe, which lies on the outer fringes of South Manchester. Simon also addresses the relationship between expanded drawing methods and narrative representation, in order to explore how the influence of Wythenshawe and the socio-political context of the 1980s impacts on his practice.

The research draws upon Simon’s own past residency experiences, as well as current definitions of the artistic residency. Alongside this, the research explores relevant arts projects and spatial, poetic and non-linear literature that engages with a past to emphasise a present. This draws on Freud’s theories relating to autobiographical and procedural memory, specifically, Freud’s texts Remembering, Repeating and Working Through (1914) and Screen Memories (1899) that analyse an engagement with specific forms of childhood memory and deliberate why we return to fragments of them later in life. Retrieving and activating narrative through the practical methodology of walking is employed through a series of narrative guided walks – both physical and virtual – that are referred to as the Wythy Walks.

The virtual, online process, which continually reveals collective and personal narrative and reflection, is examined as an artistic/curatorial tool for an exhibition called Unstable Ground. The relationships between the recorded walks and the drawn-out narrative and spaces are presented through an online artwork, also called In Search Of The Shortcuts, which incorporates a live outline version of Google Maps. The website maps out and activates the multi-sensory practice, methodology and theory, designed to be experienced in a way that is relevant to the research.

Through practical analysis, narrative related to a past is generated. Whilst simultaneously interpreting, connecting with and within a present through the process of the Wythy Walks, the project supports engagement with shared outside, suburban spaces. The environments walked through become, simultaneously, vistas of history; that are interpreted and spoken through them. The Wythy Walks define and emphasise space and time as neither static nor linear. The research promotes the definition of spaces as an articulation of a past within a present, through physical and virtual arenas, a valuable collaborative methodology, communicated and presented through the website model.

Broadly speaking Simon’s teaching and ongoing research, examined through his completed PhD, evolves around collaborative and collective practice, a cross-disciplinary approach. He has presented papers both nationally and internationally, ‘Mapping Culture’ in Coimbra, Portugal, ‘Deep Mapping’ conference at UCL in London, ‘Thinking John Berger’ at Cardiff University and ‘Drawing Coversations: Body, Space, Place’ at Coventry University.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Research Expertise and Interests

  • Drawing
  • Curation
  • Artist-Led Initiatives
  • Walking
  • Narrative
  • Non-Linear
  • Residency


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