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Strummin 999

Strummin 999

Joe Strummer, the lead singer for The Clash, was one of the most influential voices of the punk movement in the 1970's. I chose to create this portrait because I am learning to play the guitar and because one thing I really like about the punk movement is the idea that anyone can do it. Because the music of the Clash was heavily influenced by reggae, I used lots of green and orange to create this portrait.

When I was doing the base layer to the painting, I wrote London's Burning in a thick layer to pay homage to this important lyric, which set the backdrop to both the painting and the times in which the Clash first started. Because the story of the Clash is also the history of Britain in the 1970's, I also wanted to give the painting a flag feel to it, and so the painting has a block form to it. In the upper right, I have added a Union Jack flag, but decided to create it in a solid green colour. I did this because I wanted to show the importance of reggae music, culture, and immigration to British society.

In the left of the paining, I placed two circles, one white and one black. This was done to convey the idea of racial tension that Britain was experiencing at the time when the punk rock scene started ("white youth, black youth better find another solution..."). If you look at the painting from a distance, you will see that there are 3 circles that create a triangle. These 3 represent the other members of the band, but also give a touch of a cubism feel to the painting.

On Strummer's jumpsuit, I placed the 999 number to show him in a favourite outfit that he wore on stage. The 999 number is actually the phone number that people in London are told to call in the case of emergency and conveys the idea of social disturbance and panic that many people were feeling at the time. The suit also has a prisoner feel to it and 999 could be the prisoner number. I was thinking that this is important because it showed that Strummer felt so strongly about social equality that he would go to jail for these ideas. While creating the portrait, I also burned the record sleeve to create ashes as I thought more about London Burning. Some of the ashes were blown into the painting to give it more texture.

In the lower right, I added a spin record to give the painting an award feel as many artists like to show their gold and platinum records in this way. Lastly, I added the lyrics, "Roots Rock Rebel" to the painting as these were from my favourite Clash Song - (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais. In this song, Strummer tells the story of when he went to a club to see a reggae band but was disappointed because the band didn't have enough passion. The song is about social conflict, politics, class division and hope and unity. These are many themes that we are still experiencing 40 years later. 

I also decided to make a short video of this painting, set to the Hammersmith song. You can watch it here

Size: 36x48

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