Paul Simonon the former bassist of London’s most important Punk band is presenting an exhibition of his paintings at the ICA. ‘Wot no Bike’ is a series of new works by this seminal musician, artist and biker. The oils on canvas, depicts his own personal effects that include biker paraphernalia such as jackets, boots, helmets, and gloves, alongside his packets of cigarettes and books. The paintings are as much self-portraits as they are still lifes. By rendering possessions that he uses on an almost everyday basis, Simonon transmutes Wot no Bike into a visual diary in paint.
Simonon (b.1955) came to prominence in the late 1970s with the Clash. His lifelong passion for art and art history was first inspired as a child by his artist father whose studio he spent large amounts of time at, often sleeping there. It was here, surrounded by art books and pictures pinned to the wall, that he first encountered the works of 19thand 20th century masters, from Impressionism to Cubism to French Modernism and beyond. Simonon attended Byam Shaw School of Art.
Wot no Bike with its continued references to self-portraiture, is inspired by 20th century realism and its documentation of the living conditions of the working classes, in particular the work of the American Ashcan School in turn of the century New York, and the ‘Kitchen Sink’ school of painters of 1950s post-War Britain. Each focused on the banal and ordinary while depicting the resultant misery, angst and, at times, violence. In Britain the fractious domestic and economic situation of post-war austerity gave rise to the emergence of the subcultures.
While Simonon is cautious about drawing parallels between his music and his painting, it is clear that British subculture of the 1950s, 1960s and 1980s has been, and remains, essential to both these aspects of his life and work.
Autobiographical in the modernist and realist painting tradition, Wot No Bike is Simonon’s personal exploration of British subculture and counterculture in the post-war decades.
To accompany the exhibition at the ICA is a limited edition hardback publication also titled Wot no Bike.