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24 September 2014

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From Punk to Paint
Paul Simonon with BBC London's Brenda Emmanus
Brenda Emmanus with former Clash bassist Paul Simonon

Former Clash member Paul Simonon has swapped plectrum for paintbrush to create striking scenes of London and the Thames...

See more of Paul Simonon's art in our Online gallery: go here

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Entertainment reporter Brenda Emmanus talks to Paul Simonon about his transition from punk band member to painter...

Brenda Emmanus

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Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox

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dot Paul Simonon is a Brixton boy, born in 1955

dot In 1966 he moved, with his mother and stepfather, to Italy where he acquainted himself with the Old Masters in the art galleries of Florence, Siena and Rome

dot Before leaving secondary school in London, Paul won a scholarship to the Byam Shaw School of Art

dot He left Art school with fellow dropout Mick Jones. The Clash was formed after a meeting with manager-to-be Bernard Rhodes

dot Paul was the band's image creator and was responsible for the artwork from clothing to album covers

dot After years of touring, the death of a close friend and the birth of Paul's first son, he decided to give up the guitar and re-adopt the paintbrush

dot His career as an artist was cemented with a first sell out exhibition and collaboration with Damien Hirst for the Scottish National Gallery


It’s been more than fifteen years since Paul Simonon played bass with The Clash.

But those years have not been wasted as the former punk pin-up has committed much of his time to establishing a new career as an artist.

His latest exhibition, "From Hammersmith to Greenwich", is a series of paintings which focus on the Thames, making it the principle influence on the city.

The pieces capture the river at various points on its course, which Simonon has carefully chosen.

Speaking exclusively to BBC London about his labour of love, he said: "I spent months and months of the last five years, really, traipsing up and down along the Thames and I 'd see a spot - and if I felt it might have some potential I'd spend a day or two drawing there."

The Festival Hall by Paul Simonon
Festival Hall, Waterloo - (detail) oil on canvas by Paul Simonon


But with Simonon’s punk past standing as a key reference to his fame, it might have been presumed that he would end up producing conceptual work to be shown alongside the BritArt elite in Hoxton.

Simonon explained his decision: "It would be obvious for me to do conceptual art and I think I've done it already with smashing bass guitars and whatever - I consider that as conceptual."

Paul Simonon
Paul Simonon

And critics are acknowledging his skill as a more traditional painter with his ability to portray a "sense of space and light" , describing the latter as "that kind of hard light we have in London".

Among the London views to feature in his exhibition are Battersea Power Station, The Festival Hall, Waterloo Bridge and even The Millennium Wheel.


So the ex-punk has successfully made the transition from one role to another - featuring in glossy magazines as an artist as well as being seen at hip parties - but the question remains: is he ever likely to return to music?

Simonon said: "To be honest I've got to the stage now where I just want to paint - I've done my time with the music"

Paul Simonon's From Hammersmith to Greenwich continues at Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, 38 Bury Street, St James's SW1 - Tel: 020 7930 6422

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