Simon Bartram exhibition heads to Hartlepool

Published Friday, 7th January 2022

A North East artist and award-winning children’s author is bringing his first solo exhibition to Hartlepool later this month.

The FREE exhibition titled ‘Under The Vapour Trails’ by Tyneside-based Simon Bartram opens at Hartlepool Art Gallery on Saturday 29th January and runs until Saturday 23rd April.

Born in Jarrow and raised in Hebburn, an area of the North East previously defined by the heavy industries of shipbuilding and mining, Simon was brought up around ‘sturdy’ characters who populated the pubs and football terraces.

Simon’s exhibition centres around paintings and drawings of these post-industrial men who, somewhat stereotypically, find their identities in the clothes they wear, the haircuts they sport and the football teams they follow.

The men portrayed in his portraits live in real and imaginary towns and cities that are intersected by rivers that flow east into the North Sea. Above them, the skies are intersected by the vapour trails of aeroplanes leaving for places far away.

The painted men, however, always stay and, going forward, it is Simon's ambition to look beyond their haircuts and hoodies and explore who they really are and what it means to live in the North East.

'North Sea Man' by Simon Bartram

'North Sea Man' by Simon Bartram

“I am so looking forward to showing my work at Hartlepool Art Gallery,” says Simon. “It’s such a privilege to have an exhibition in such a beautiful setting and I’m excited to engage with the town and its art enthusiasts.”

As part of the exhibition, Hartlepool Art Gallery has created a new family-friendly play space based on Simon’s award-winning children’s books. Children and adults will enjoy taking part in space exploration and hunting for aliens with the character Bob, the astronaut from Man on the Moon. A full programme of fun crafts and artist workshops will accompany the exhibition during school holidays and on Saturdays.

Simon has had major success as an author in his career. Notable achievements include being a runner-up for the Mother Goose Award in 1999 for Pinocchio and for the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2002 for Man on the Moon: A Day in the Life of Bob.

In 2004 Man on the Moon was voted "best illustrated book to read aloud" by a panel of Blue Peter viewers and also named Blue Peter Book Awards Book of the Year.

‘We are delighted to host Simon Bartram’s first solo show at Hartlepool Art Gallery. Simon’s arresting and expressive portraiture represents the changing nature of masculinity in the 21st century,” says Georgina Ascroft, Museum and Gallery Manager for Hartlepool Borough Council.

“Visitors will recognise many of the local caricatures that feature in Simon’s work and for a brief moment the viewer will be immersed in the spaces between pubs and football grounds, where men might find themselves walking along the coastal path or busy street to the next bolt hole, into a destination all of their own.

“His sitters stand still, alone and enigmatic, sometimes faintly comical and absurd, filling their frames with their bulk as physical manifestation of their pent up and unheard stories.”

Hartlepool Art Gallery is in Church Square and is open 10am – 5pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. Entry is free.

For more information call (01429) 869706 or visit