The Art of Swanlights

Antony and the Johnsons Get Visual in Their Latest Record and Book

Swanlights, the forthcoming album from New York-based collective Antony and the Johnsons, is something of a masterpiece. Not only is it perhaps the most emotionally wide-ranging collection of songs that frontman Antony Hegarty has ever penned, it’s also a philosophical treatise, beautifully contextualized by the 144-page art book that accompanies the CD release—a selection of which we exclusively preview today. The book collects 152 collages and drawings that the musician has been working on since 2007, a period in which he was writing and recording music for the new record as well as songs that would constitute 2009’s The Crying Light. Incorporating contemporary and archaic newspaper cuttings, aged photographs, illustrations and pages from books, which have been variously overpainted, scrawled upon and dissected.  The works, says Hegarty, explore an “evolving relationship with the world around me, both in feeling more part of it in my own way and in an awareness that I have a real impact on it.” So in a series entitled “Cut Away the Bad,” he removes unpleasant imagery from photographs of catastrophes, or in works such as The Creek (For My Father) embellishes natural landscapes with ebullient illustrations. “It seemed audacious to me,” he says of the art book/album release concept, “but I ended up trying to do it because I had such conviction about the emotional resonance of the pictures. The landscapes felt very true to me.” Read our full interview with Antony Hegarty here.

Swanlights is released tomorrow by Rough Trade

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