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Dr Simon Willems

British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow

Simon Willems Photo


  • Organisational Aesthetics, 
  • Neoliberalism, 
  • Positive Psychology in the Workplace

Dr Simon Willems is a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow based between Henley Business School and the University of Reading School of Art. Simon's research 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 fueled his doctoral research and grounds his artistic practice, he investigates how organisational austerity measures and a social construct of wellbeing, created by Human Resources Management, conflicts with real wellbeing. Key to this analysis is a virtue ethics approach to organisations which recognises individuals as integral to them, as opposed to emphasising 'self-actualisation' in the trend towards positive psychology and self-optimisation.

His doctoral research explored the characterisation of anonymity in contemporary figurative painting. He holds a PhD in Fine Art from the University of Reading and an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art.

He has published articles in the Journal of Organisational Aesthetics and the Journal of Contemporary Painting. He is writing his first monograph, Rethinking Wellbeing Through Art: Artworks as Critical Commentaries on Organisational Subjectivity (Palgrave Macmillan).

A practicing artist, Simon exhibits nationally and internationally. His primary medium is painting, which he develops alongside curatorial projects in all media that focus on organisational aesthetics and wellbeing narratives in working environments.