London artist Paul Simonon is a painter, musician, and designer. He was born in London in 1955.
Simonon took up a scholarship at the prestigious Byam Shaw School of Art in Kensington (now part of Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design) .It was at this time that he bumped into Mick Jones who asked him if he wanted to form a band. As an aspiring painter who had never previously played bass, he first took a lead role in the band’s visual identity, rapidly learning to play the instrument as he went along. Vocalist Joe Strummer decided to join up with the two on sight and The Clash went on to become one of the most iconic and influential bands of the last 40 years. The Clash, styled by Simonon were recently cited as a key influence in Punk: Chaos to Couture at NY’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Simonon has always been passionate about art, and since the band split in the mid-1980s, painting has become as important as his music career. His passion for painting began as a boy, his father was an avid amateur painter and Paul spent a lot of time in his studio, often sleeping there. It was here, surrounded by books and pictures pinned to the walls that he first encountered the works of nineteenth and twentieth-century masters, from Impressionism to Cubism and beyond.
Introduced to an artist friend of his father, Paul began assisting him on projects at an inner city London school, where he learnt the basics of using paint, supplemented by teaching himself at home. Using his days off when on tour with the band to visit museums and galleries, his enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, the history of art has continued to grow ever since.
In recent years, his fascination with French fin-de-siècle painting has literally taken him on the trail of Paul Gauguin, to the islands of French Polynesia. In addition to French modernist painting of the late nineteenth century. Simonon’s painting practice has been heavily influenced by twentieth-century realism, particularly the American Ashcan School, which documented New York’s working class life at the turn of the century, and the British ‘Kitchen Sink’ school of painters of the 1950s. The latter formed a part of the wider social realism movement, both in the arts and popular culture. The difficult financial and domestic situations of many of the urban poor in Britain at this time served as a backdrop to the emergence of Ted, Biker and Rocker subcultures that first appeared in these years, subcultures that actually spanned economic and class divides.
Growing up in London in the 1960s, his first experiences of this came in the form of the clash between the Mods and Rockers subcultures, a tension which fuelled into the wider dynamics of the ‘angry young man’ attitude and social unrest that came to define youth culture of this period, and which were the genesis of Punk culture in the 1970s.
While Simonon is cautious about drawing parallels between his music and his painting, it is clear that British subculture of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s has been, and remains, essential to both aspects of his life and work.
Simonon lives and works in London.