Paul Simonon: art of an icon

The news that Paul Simonon (The Clash founder and more recently member of The Good The Bad & The Queen) is unveiling a new collection of paintings provides an opportunity to appraise the bass-player’s standing as an abiding icon of rock & roll style.

Simonon not only possessed the haunted good looks, perfect spiky top (or slicked back quiff) and lean frame for the punk look, but also an ineffable and highly photogenic cool.

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//The Clash perform The Magnificent Seven, Tom Snyder Show, 1981// 

This continues to be recognized by designers: in THE LOOK Hedi Slimane named Simonon a key inspiration in the creation of the “skinny indie” look templated during his Dior Homme years.

As a former skinhead with artistic leanings, Simonon’s stylish selection of sharp shirts, narrow-lapelled suits, brothel creepers, wingtips and broad brimmed Jamaican-style hats brought a crucial visual element to the Clash’s incendiary mix of political bravado and charged musicality.

//Rude boy rock//

As Ben Myers pointed out in his interview with Simonon for online magazine 3AM a couple of years back: “Joe Strummer had the politico credentials, Mick Jones had the Keith Richards flash, swagger and natural musical ability, but Simonon had poise.”

It should be noted that all three key Clash members were very savvy when it came to visuals, having attended art college at one time or another: Strummer undertook a foundation year at Saint Martins in the early 70s, Mick Jones was at Hammersmith for a spell and Simonon was a scholarship attendee at Byam Shaw. 

//Simonon on stage// 

“The fact that they all attended art schools had an absolute impact on The Clash,” says Chris Salewicz, a close friend of the group and author of the best-selling Joe Strummer biography Redemption Song.

“In many ways The Clash can be seen as a conceptual art school vision of what a rock & roll band is supposed to be and, importantly, how it should look.”

Paul Simonon in The Clash

Although it was young art students Alex Michon and Krystyna Kolowska who designed many of the group’s greatest outfits – militaristic and tough, with cowboy and rockabilly flourishes – Simonon was heavily involved in the process of creating The Clash clothes, screen-printing and suggesting ideas as well as adapting and sometimes making his own, as in this netting top which he stitched together himself for an early tour.

//Alex Michon stitching for The Clash (c) A. Michon// 

It’s gratifying to witness the recognition of Simonon’s abilities as a visual artist over recent years; THE LOOK quotes a letter Strummer wrote to Michon in 1998 : “As for myself, like all the others, I have found The Clash a hard act to follow.”

But along with Jones, Simonon has now assuredly escaped the shadows of The Clash.

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//The Good The Bad & the Queen at Abbey Road 07//

The Good The Bad & The Queen have brought his innate rhythmic skills to a new generation of pop fans while April 17 sees the opening of his first exhibition of new paintings for six years, at  the Thomas Williams gallery in central London. The show includes a series of oil paintings interpreting La Corrida bullfighting tournaments as well as a number of still lives depicting objects with elements of religious symbolism.

//Examples of Simonon’s work from his new show// 

Paul Simonon – New Paintings will be on display from April 17 to May 9 at Thomas Williams Fine Art .

rockpopfashion said,

January 7, 2008 @ 10:19 am

ADDITION: Simonon was also involved in designing and screen-printing clothes, band equipment and t-shirts, many of which were created by Sebastian Conran in the early years of the group’s existence.

In fact a t-shirt of Simonon’s – Clash Security, one of which was modelled as part of THE LOOK’s Clash Culture event at Central Saint Martins last May – is currently up for auction to raise money for the US musicians’ charity Sweet Relief.

In 1977 Simonon gave the shirt to Patti Smith, who later passed it to her drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. He has, in turn, donated it to Sweet Relief.

The winner will be announced on February 26. For further details, donations and bids go to:

pedro said,

November 17, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

I am glad that he has gone back to something he enjoys and it is something he is clearly very talented at. I am glad I had the fortunate experience of seeing the Clash and the Mescaleroes,Iam glad that they are gone now and did not turn into something embarrasing like the rolling stones. You could tell Joe enjoyed the music he made before he died and likewise Paul with his painting.

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