Simon Woolham: Unearthing Layers

What was lost? biro ink and paper on found shopping trolley, Air Gallery Open, 2018

What was lost? biro ink and paper on found shopping trolley, 2018

Simon Woolham and Ruby Tingle, Manchester Museum performance (as the Gold Frog) and Past Present Future drawing commission for the New Mills Festival, graphite rubbings on paper and suites, 2018

Simon Woolham and Ruby Tingle, Past Present Future drawing commission for the New Mills Festival, graphite rubbings on paper and suites, 2018

Simon Woolham and Ruby Tingle NQL (Not Quite Light) performance commission 2019

Paper Cuts Exhibition, Brighton and Hove Museum, paper installation, 2006

Walking Routes, Mapping, Excavating and Performing Histories, Barnaby Festival performance with Helen Walford and Heidi Jamila, 2018 

Walking Routes, Mapping, Excavating and Performing Histories installation, Barnaby Festival, 2018

Performing PAPER, Body, Place, Space, Market Gallery, Huddersfield, 2017

My work is concerned primarily with occupied spaces; school playing fields, junked underpasses and the like that often contain text with the tone of dialogue and the personal and collective narrative that unfolds in them. I explore layers of history, drawing out narrative, glimpses of speech. The dilapidated environments come to life in a skint version of enchantment: a tree stump or a broken fence, are filled with the meanings of the events that go on around and about them. At the core of my practice is the collaborative exploration and encouragement of hidden human details, shared histories, stories associated with belonging and the relationship to specific places and spaces; providing a voice to often unheard vistas of history.

I explore a variety of processes, specifically around expanded drawing and through the concept of creating a physical, virtual and psychological artistic residency of the mind, mixing live and digital platforms, encouraging narrative associated with a multitude of spaces and times. In my attempts to unearth this unpredictable and fragile process of layers of history, I utilise both traditional and non-traditional processes, biro drawings, sculpture, performance, paper interventions, animation, video, collaborative walking and text. I see the biro drawings as a way of performing layers of narrative in the present, through the act of drawing them out for both myself and for others. This is processed through how hard, how soft, how detailed and how vague I am, a representation of the layered spatial narrative plane. 

The work is unassuming, quite often made from simple materials and with seemingly modest aspirations. It is their quotidian qualities, however, that charges them with emotion, not that those emotions are easy to identify. It is not that these works are personal or autobiographical that obscures their emotional content, it is the fact that they are irreducibly, irrevocably unsettling. These sites are the scenes of humiliation as well as innocent play, of rejection and failure as well as fantasy and adventure.

The Abandoned Halfpipe, for This Land Is our Land, PAPER, Gallery, Kinder Scout rubbings on paper, 2019

The Weight, for This Land Is our Land, PAPER Gallery, Kinder Scout rubbings on paper, 2019

Into The Valley, graphite rubbings on paper, 2019

Art on Paper installation, BOZAR, Brussels, biro on paper, 2016-17

The Final Countdown, biro on paper, 2012


Simon Woolham's work is concerned primarily with occupied spaces and the narratives that unfold in them. His drawings of school playing fields, junked underpasses and the like often contain text with the tone of dialogue. Through these glimpses of speech, the dilapidated environments come to life in a skint version of enchantment: a tree stump or a broken fence are filled with the meanings of the events that go on around and about them. In his attempts to unearth this unpredictable and fragile process of memory, he uses biro drawings, paper interventions, animation, video and performance.

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 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 explore his practice 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 organization 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 also performs as M4SK 22 and collaborates with the public and other performers and for Mapping and Interpreting Surfaces Of A Place, he built a large-scale collaborative drawing installation for New Mills Festival with members of the Walking History community and performed in the drawing with Ruby Tingle. This engaged with the spaces and surfaces through the physical process of creating and collecting rubbings from the interior and exterior surfaces of the architecture around the town. For Walking Routes: Mapping, excavating and performing histories he again built a growing, collaborative drawing installation at a Theatre in Macclesfield, made from rubbings mapped-out and collected from a 2 day walk along the whole length of the Macclesfield Canal ‘route’. For the unveiling of the installation Simon performed in the artwork with other fellow musicians.
Dr Simon Woolham MA, PhD, FHEA
0.5 Lecturer – University of Huddersfield
Rogue Artists’ Studios
Curator/Artistic Programmer at PAPER
Tel: 07759 776848
One half of music ping-pong M4SK 22
One half of music ping-pong M4SK 22

Up and Coming Projects:
(Un)Staged (co-curating)
Group Show
Collaborative Exhibitions between Leicester Print Workshop and PAPER

Barnaby Festival 2018 Commission
MADS Theatre

This Land Is Our Land (co-curating)
PAPER Gallery
29 June - 3 August

INTER-SECTION (curating)
Market Gallery
26 July - 3 August 2019

Show / Residency
Drawing Projects UK
August - October 2019

Drawing Conversations 2: Body, Place, Space
Book Chapter (Space)
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Launching October 2019

Click on the link for film works.

Simon Woolham
 Rogue Artists’ Studios
Mobile: 07759 776848

2012 – 2016      Manchester Metropolitan University
                        Funded Practice-Led PhD, MIRIAD – Manchester Metropolitan University: Pass
1999 – 2000      Chelsea College of Art
                        MA Fine Art, Grade: Distinction
1996 – 1999      Manchester Metropolitan University
                        BA Fine Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, Grade: 2:1

Solo Shows
2019             Drawing Out The Canal Exhibition and residency, Drawing Projects UK, Trowbridge
2017             PAST/PRESENT/FUTURE NEW MILLS, New Mills Festival
2016             In Search of the Shortcuts (with PAPER) Art On Paper, BOZAR, Brussels
                    Walking Out From Home Cresswell Crags and Wirksworth Festival, Derbyshire
                     TAKING BACK SPACE: The Macc Walks Barnaby, Macclesfield
2013             The Wanderer 20–21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe
2008             The Short Cut Kings Lynn Art Centre, Norfolk
                    The Invader (curated by Elena Schmitz) Chapter Gallery, Cardiff
                    Dark Corner Margaret Harvey Gallery, St Albans
                    The Bridge Was a Good Place to Throw Stuff off Leicester Art Gallery, Offsite Project   2007             Shreds of Evidence (curated by Danielle Arnaud) Museum of Garden History, London
                    On The Run Wexford Arts Centre, Enniscorthy, Per Cent Commission
                    Our Place BLOC Space, Sheffield
2006             Dark Corner The National Glass Centre, Sunderland
                    Simon Woolham at the ARTS COUNCIL North East Offices Show and commission
                    Jerusalem Book Space Installation Dean Clough Gallery, Halifax
2004             Hanging Out at the Lamppost The Lowry Residency, commission and solo show
                    Takeover Floating IP Gallery Plan-chest, Manchester
2001             Simon Woolham at the Hoxton Distillery (curated by Lisa Le Feurve) Shoreditch, London
Selected Group Shows
2019             (Un)Staged Group exhibition at Leicester Print Workshop and PAPER
2018             ROGUE RE-LAUNCH (curated by Manifest Arts) Rogue Artists’ Studios, Manchester
                    Truth and Fantasy (curated by Martyn Lucas) Various Venues in Yorkshire
                     like the lines of a hand Centre for Recent Drawing (C4RD), London
2017             like the lines of a hand (curated by Simon Woolham) PAPER, Manchester
                    for space (curated by Simon Woolham) PAPER, Manchester
                    Intimate (curated by Paula and Martyn Lucas), Isherwood Gallery, Wigan
                    AIR Open, Altrincham, Manchester
2016             Sound and Vision (curated by Simon Woolham) PAPER, Manchester
                    Drawing Works Inaugural Group Exhibition, Camden Picture Gallery, London
2015             We Shape Our Buildings: Therefore They Shape Us London Art Fair
2014             Unstable Ground (curated by Simon Woolham) PAPER, Manchester
                    Jonbar Archaeology NN Contemporary Art, Northampton
                    Soft Estate Spacex, Exeter                   
2013             Soft Estate The Bluecoat, Liverpool
                    Performing PAPER PAPER, Manchester
                    Fine Art Schools Exchange Group Show Kunst Acacedmie, Dresden, Germany
2012             Meanwhile John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton
                    Digital Romantics Dean Clough Gallery, Halifax
2011             Ink on Paper DLI Museum, Durham
                    In Close Succession Group show, Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich
                    Virtually Real London, Leeds and Cardiff
2010             Partnering Wysing Arts Centre, collaboration as M4SK 22 and Abbas Hashemi
                    Virtually Real London, Leeds and Cardiff
                    The Great Outdoors Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth
                    Performing Presence The National Centre for Contemporary Art, St Petersburg
                    Animated Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Wales
                    Eastern Open 10 Kings Lynn Arts Centre, Norfolk
2009             Open End Tank TV (online), London
                    Parlourdoor - All through the House New York
                    The Event Various Venues in Birmingham
Project Pigeon – Pictorial (curated by Alex Lockett and Ian England) Birmingham
In between the Lines – Recent British Drawing Trinity Contemporary, London
                    Le Roman Du Lievre: Marginalia MTS Gallery, Anchorage, Alaska                    
                    Blue Sky Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge
                    Celebration of Earth Day The Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California
                    The Kiss of A Lifetime Rogue Project Space and various venues, Manchester
                     Place, Identity and Memory Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland
                    Eastern Open 09 Kings Lynn Arts Centre, Norfolk
                    TESTCARD (curated by Projeckt) Online Project, London
                    ANIMATED Wysing Arts Centre, Bourn, Cambridge
2008             AQUA Art Fair with Danielle Arnaud, Miami, Florida
                    LE60 Lumen Eclipse, Cambridge, Massachusetts
                    Time is Love (curated by Kisito Assangni) Octobre Gallery, Paris
                    Inside-Out Wysing Arts Centre, Bourn, Nr Cambridge
                    The Golden Record (curated by Mel Brimfield) Collective Gallery, Edinburgh
                    Stop Watch RSA Arts and Ecology/Animate Projects Commission, various locations
                    Visions of the Nunnery The Nunnery, London
                    Tatton Park Biennial 2008 Tatton Park, Knutsford, Manchester
                    Margate Rocks Margate, Kent
                    Eastern Open 08 Kings Lynn Arts Centre, Norfolk (prize winner)
2007             ISOBAR Fieldgate Gallery, London
                    Bolwick 4 Bolwick Hall, Norwich
                    Creekside Open APT Gallery, London
                    Harry Smith Anthology (curated by) Alt.Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne                
                    Merdre! Pendu Gallery, New York
                    Art Video Västerås, Sweden
                    Snow Domes The National Glass Centre, Sunderland
2006             Too Much Freedom! Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California
                    One Love, The Footbal Art Prize The Lowry, Manchester
                    EXPO Sonic Arts Cornerhouse and Victoria Baths, Manchester
                    Visions of the Nunnery The Nunnery, London
                    Paper Cuts Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery and touring to various venues
                    Another Product Cornerhouse, Manchester
                    Jerusalem Dean Clough Gallery, Halifax
                    London Art Fair Work curated by Danielle Arnaud and Pryle Behrman
2005             Artsway Open Artsway, Sway, The New Forest  
                    Emergency 2 Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth
                    Perspectives 05 Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast
                    Future Landscape Shrewsbury Art Gallery, Shrewsbury
2004             La Petit Paysage Independents, Liverpool Biennial 04
                    Bad Kids Warrington City Art Gallery, Collins Gallery, Margaret Harvey Gallery
                    I am a Curator Chisenhale Gallery, London        
2003             Drawing Show Keith Talent Gallery, London
                    Prospects Drawing Prize 03 The Truman Brewery, London
2002             May it Return in Spades Bart Wells Institute, London
                    Blinc G39 Gallery, Cardiff
2001             Sparwasser HQ (Z-Bar Cinema), Berlin, Germany
                    If the Wind Changes You'll Stay Like That Mafuji Gallery, London
2000             Mostyn Open 11 Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno (joint winner)
                    Perspectives 2000 Ormeah Baths Gallery, Belfast
                    Dilated Pupils V.T.O. Gallery, Bethnal Green, London
                    Becks Futures Student Prize ICA, London
                    Uptight Outasight Plus Gallery, Dusseldorf, Germany
                    Exit 24hrs Chisenhale Gallery, London
Publications and Reviews
2019             Drawing Conversations 2: Body, Place, Space Published Chapter
2017             Collective and Collaborative Drawing in Contemporary Practice (featured)                                                                                
2014             Unstable Ground The Guardian, exhibition previewed by Robert Clarke
                    Drawing Paper Distributed by Drawing Paper, Liverpool
2012             Pop Ups and Drawings Publication published by Marmalade–publishers of visual theory
2010             Rubric Journal Spring edition
2009             Between the Lines Recent British Drawings Trinity Contemporary, London
2008             The Invader The Guardian, exhibition previewed by Jessica Lack
                    The Invader Metro, exhibition previewed by David Trigg
                    The Golden Record Exhibition reviewed in The Times, The Herald, the Scotsman and Metro
                    Tatton Park Biennial 08 Catalogue published by Parabola, essay by Sally O’Reilly
                    Three Artists Views Engage, 22
2007             Shreds of Evidence The Guardian, exhibition previewed by Jessica Lack
                    ISOBAR Publication by Gaia Persico and Angela Kingston
                    Shreds of Evidence Publication published by Parabola with an essay by Lisa Le Feuvre
2006             Our Place BALTIC/Creative Partnerships residency publication                  
2004             Hanging Out at the Lamppost Metro, exhibition preview
                     I am a Curator Chisenhale Gallery publication by Per Huttner
                    Bunk Commissioned article commission for the artist-led publication Bunk
2002             Mined Commissioned piece for the yearly publication for Tank magazine

Awards and Commissions
2018             Barnaby Festival Commission MAPPING, EXCAVATING AND PERFORMING HISTORY
2016             D-LAB and Junction Arts Co-Commission of The Rural Routes: Walking Out From Home
                    Barnaby Festival Commission TAKING BACK SPACE: The Macc Walks
2012             Arts Council England Funding for publication of drawings, lithographs and pop-ups
                    Brotherton Library 75th Anniversary Commission of new pop-ups
2009             Arts Council England Funding for artistic development and research
2008             Enquire Commission for Urban Origami at Kettles Yard, Ruskin Gallery and Wysing Arts
                    Tatton Park Biennial 08 Commission, Knutsford, Manchester
                    Stop. Watch Animate Projects/RSA Arts and Ecology commission for Ecologically Film
2007             Arts Council England Funding for ‘Shreds of Evidence’, Museum of Garden History, London
2006             50 Drawings in Snowdomes National Glass Centre commission, Sunderland
                    Arts Council North East Offices Commission and show
                    Per Cent for Art Commission and residency, Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland
2004             The Lowry Commission and solo show
2003             Bookworks Shortlisted for Chap Books Series
2002             Middlesborough Art Gallery (MIMA) Shortlisted for drawing residency
                    London Arts Board Artists Bursary award
2001             Mostyn Open 11 Joint award winner
2000             ACAVA First Base prize winner (one year’s free studio)

Residencies and Education Projects
2016             DAR Space/Place Online Residency DAR, Online
                    The Remote Lab2 Project with Fermynwoods Contemporary Art
2015             The Manchester College Contemporary Art Practice course, Artist in Residence  
2014             Staffordshire University Foundation course, lecture and tutorials
                     The Manchester College Degree course, lecture and tutorials
2013             Lancaster University Degree Course, lecture and tutorials
2011             Fermynwoods: Flow Interchange Residency 14 days residency on a narrow boat
                     Fermynwoods: Forest as Film Public Residency Thrapston, Northamptonshire                      
                    Museum as Film Workshops at V&A
2010             Bedford Creative Arts Artist in Residence Bedford
                    Imagine a Film Storyboard Workshop at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge
                    Wysing Arts Centre Escalator retreat
2009             Vital Arts Shrink Your World project
                    Chisenhale Gallery and Vital Arts Residency, collaboration with Yara El-Sherbini
                    Creative Partnerships Artist in Residence in collaboration with Science and Art         
                    Lancaster University Degree course, lecture and tutorials
                    Media Box Project leader on digital project with disadvantaged children, WAC Arts, London
2008             Various schools in Cheshire Part of Tatton Park Biennial 08, Tatton Park, Cheshire
                    West Suffolk College Lecture and tutorials, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
2007             Bolwick 4 Bolwick Hall residency and show, Norwich
2006             The National Glass Centre Artist in Residence, Sunderland
                    Berwick Gymnasium Shortlisted for Berwick residency
                    BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Freelance artist
                    BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art/Creative Partnership Artist in Residence
2005             V&A Museum Digital Artist in Schools residency
                    ACAVA Dianne Hughes residency in schools
                    Lancaster University Visiting lecturer
                    V&A Museum Digital Art Workshop leader
2004             Lowry Art Gallery Drawing residency with St Thomas Aquinas School, Manchester
                    Warrington Art Gallery Residency at Young Offenders Institute, Warrington
2003             V&A Museum Digital Art Workshop leader
                    CITAS Narrative/Image workshops with refugees, Hammersmith, London
                    Workshops in schools For production of Carmen, Kings Cross, London
                    Manchester Metropolitan University Lecture and tutorials on BA Fine Art
2002             ACAVA Selected for portfolio development and artists talks in schools
                    ACAVA Drawing and storytelling workshop with refugees
2001             ACAVA Hurlingham and Chelsea School children with dyslexia workshop

Curated Projects
2019             This Land is Our Land PAPER, Manchester (Future)
                    INTER-SECTION Market Gallery, Huddersfield (Future)
                    (Un)Staged PAPER & Leicester Print Workshop (co-curated)
2017             for space PAPER, Manchester
                    Like the lines of a hand PAPER, Manchester
2016             Sound and Vision PAPER, Manchester
2014             Unstable Ground PAPER, Manchester

Conference Presentations
2017             Drawing Conversations 2: Body, Space, Place Coventry University
                    Creative Practice Completion Symposium Hospitalfield Arts Centre, Arbroath
2016             Deep Mapping UCL, London
2014             Thinking John Berger Cardiff University
                    Mapping Culture Coimbra University, Portugal

Public Collections
Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
MMU Special Collections, Manchester
NN Contemporary Art, Northampton
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire
Texas State University, USA
Professional Footballers Association Collection
The Mag Collection, UK
Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, Northamptonshire
Poppy Sebire, London
Websites Links:

Simon Woolham's streams of consciousness make for very engaging artworks. He doodles his memories and fantasies on paper, often adding little tid-bits of information to guide the viewer through the caverns of his mind: places where he camped as a child, bleak underpasses and school playing fields – the unassuming backdrops against which the drama of his life has been played out.
Jessica Lack on ‘The Invader’ at Chapter Gallery, the Guardian August 2008
Woolham’s poetic interventions take a unique response to archiving by chewing, tearing and twisting paper into elegant sculptures which are then littered among the garden tools on display. On the walls are animations of these sculptures come to life, creating a magical, after-dark impression of the gallery after closing time. Woolham’s exhibition combines playful fantasy with a rigorous investigation of the museums neglected spaces.
Jessica Lack on ‘Shreds of Evidence’ at the Museum of Garden History, the Guardian August 2007

I am also curator/artistic programmer of PAPER, an artist-run gallery in Manchester

One half of music/film ping-pong M4SK 22