Areas of interest
I am currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow based between the Art department and Henley Business School. My fellowship project, Rethinking Wellbeing: Evaluating the Neoliberalisation of Wellbeing in the Workplace Using Artworks as a Critical Lens, examines how contemporary artists critique wellbeing programmes within organisations by challenging how different aspects of neoliberalism underpin them. Building on the hermit/corporate team-building participant duality that fuelled my doctoral research, and which grounds my artistic practice, my research investigates how organisational austerity measures and a social construct of wellbeing, created by Human Resources Management, conflicts with the importance of real wellbeing. Central to this analysis is a virtue ethics approach to organisations which recognises individuals as integral to them, in contrast to those emphasising ‘self-actualisation’ in the trend towards positive psychology and self-optimisation.
I am a practising artist and exhibit nationally and internationally. I have written and published articles in the Journal of Contemporary of Painting, the Journal of Organizational Aesthetics and the painting journal Turps Banana. I am currently writing my first monograph, Rethinking Wellbeing Through Art: Artworks as Critical Commentaries on Organisational Subjectivity (Palgrave Macmillan). Although my work as an artist is primarily concerned with painting, this has developed alongside curatorial projects in all media that have increasingly focussed on organisational aesthetics and the role of neoliberalism in shaping wellbeing narratives in working environments.
I studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University (1991-1994) and Painting at the Royal College of Art (1998-2000), before completing my practice-based PhD in Fine Art at the University of Reading in 2019. My doctoral research explored the characterisation of anonymity in contemporary figurative painting.
Willems, Simon and Warren, Samantha (2020) 'Presenting whilst retreating in the age of the corporate lanyard,' Organizational Aesthetics: Vol. 9: Iss. 1, 1-17. Available at: https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/oa/vol9/iss1/1
Willems, Simon (2019), ‘Forging reality: Surface and reductionism in the work of Dick Bengtsson’, Journal of Contemporary Painting, 5:2, pp. 233–252, doi: https://doi.org/10.1386/jcp_00002_1
Willems, Simon (2020) 'Against the audience: hermits in art history', Turps Banana, Issue 23, Pages 62-67.
Willems, Simon (2017) 'Norbert Schwontkowski', Turps Banana, Issue 18, Pages 60-67.
Selected Solo Exhibitions including:
Step Away From the Sun - You Are Blocking the Light, Jugg Art Foundation, Ipswich, UK
2019 How Not to Disappear Completely, Elephant West, London
Killing Me Softly, Galerie Polaris, Paris, France
Universal Solutions Incorporated, Xero, Kline & Coma, London
A Certain Way to Fade, Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles
Strangeways Here We Come, Wallspace, New York
Bad things even happen to nice people, FRAC Auvergne, Clermont Ferrand, France
Folk Law, Percymiller Gallery, London
Selected Group Exhibitions including:
The Collection - National Museum of Gdansk, Poland
2021 Memento, La Collection du FRAC Auvergne, Musée Crozatier, Le Puy, France
Annual Ipswich Biennial, (Uncommon or Garden, Jugg Art Foundation &
2019 Silent Street, Atlas House) Ipswich, UK
Maisons pour Insomniaques, Rêve 1 FRAC Haute-Normandie, Le Garage, Saint-Saëns, France
Curatorial Projects including:
Art of Management & Organisation conference exhibition, University of Liverpool and Bluecoat in collaboration with the Royal Standard, Liverpool (forthcoming)
Artists' Film & Video Gala, City Lit at the Conservatoire, Blackheath, London
Sitting with the Qualities of a Mountain, Blyth Gallery, Imperial College, London
Let the World Slip, Lion & Lamb Gallery, London
Please Drive Slowly Through Our Village, Fold Gallery, London