PARQUET Courts’ Andrew Savage creates art in a monastic way.
He works out of a small studio in the Brooklyn suburb of Bed-Stuy for long periods of time, punctuated by tours with his band Parquet Courts and releases through his Dull Tools record label.
His paintings (under the moniker A. Savage) have adorned every Parquet Courts release since the band’s inception in 2011, from the Chinese-takeout themed layout of their debut cassette American Specialties (2011) to the Grammy-nominated packaging of
“There’s just a sensation that I get that guides me toward the colour palette.”
Andrew’s work primarily concerns the portrayal of movement, and the subjects in his paintings are in a constant blurred stasis, punctuated by jagged, cut-up lettering and large portions of text.
The colours used are erratic and ever-changing from project to project, however the aesthetic minimalism remains a through-line throughout his art.
Andrew is in his Bed-Stuy studio painting when the call gets connected. It’s a couple weeks before the release of Wide Awake!, and he is currently knee-deep in a new project as the creative director of an LA hotel. “I’ve been here like 12 hours a day for the past two months,” he says.
“It’s 20 paintings, and I’ve got eight of them that I’m working on in tandem right now. It’s above a bar and it’s eleven rooms. It’s a three-storey building … The second and third storeys are hotel rooms and there will be at least one painting in all those rooms, as well as some in the hallway.”
Can you explain the three figures that make up the cover of Wide Awake!?
I don’t know if I can. I don’t know much about them myself honestly. I was listening to the album a lot while I was working on the record and I don’t know. It’s always just what comes out of me when I just immerse myself in the sounds. It’s people dancing, it’s just a clue to what you can expect from the record, but I don’t know much about them myself.
The people in a lot of your paintings are usually quite blurry. Is there a reason why you like to portray them this way?
It’s not really blurred. It’s supposed to convey movement. A lot of the inanimate things that I paint are really hard edged, so it’s mostly with the organic things that have that movement quality of line. I like to represent the moving image in that way … I’m interested in the way things move through space.
One of my favourite paintings is this Duchamp painting, a Nude Descending Staircase. It blew my mind seeing it when I was in art school, but I can’t imagine in 1911, or whenever it was, whenever he finished that painting. Seeing that painting for the first time must have been awesome because it depicts movement in painting in a way that I’ve never seen depicted in a painting before, so I’m fascinated with translating a sensation like that onto a canvas.
The colour schemes in all of your paintings are quite bright and vivid. What draws you as an artist towards using them?
Well certainly Wide Awake! is very bright. My paintings on canvas I think are probably a little bit more diverse. There’s a lot of greys in there and a lot of ugly layer kind of colours but I think it sounds “wide awake”? I experience music, or sound, and colour together a lot and this felt like it needed to be a bright record whereas Human Performance felt like it needed to be a really specific shade of blue, and Content Nausea felt like it needed to be that burnt orange. There’s just a sensation that I get that guides me toward the colour palette.
Of all of the Parquet Courts album covers that you’ve done, which is your personal favourite?
I don’t know, they’re all pretty special. Right now I’m in the room where I did all of them but as I look out the window I can see the viewpoint that I drew the
What do you feel you can express in your artwork that differs from your songwriting?
That’s a good question. It’s a different type of language. I’m pretty comfortable with words and writing words at this point. Expressing myself through lyrics is a very familiar thing for me. Essentially it’s a language I’ve spoken all my life, whereas trying to find that same depth of emotion in an image and in all the things that are approximate to the image, like shape, colour, texture, line, that’s a bit more difficult to harness more grand emotions into something like that to where it’s not about the way you draw or paint a window but the way you execute that window.
I think that, going back to Monastic Living, that cover would have been really different feeling. The piece of art would have been different feeling if the lines around the monk were true to life. I like the challenge of creating something new, cerebral, and emotional with visuals because at this point, although I would never say that songwriting isn’t a challenge because it still definitely is, I guess I’m more comfortable with it.
Which do you find more satisfying artistically, painting or songwriting?
I kind of view them as one and the same, and when I do accomplish that thing of executing exactly what I want to say either with words or with paint, that’s just an amazing feeling all together.