Dexter Orszagh

The Drawing Year 2021
BA Graphic Design, UAL Central Saint Martins

Dexter Phillips in his studio

From the chronicled conquests depicted in Assyrian reliefs to the documentation of war in Goya's prints, art can be seen as both a record of history and a report on who holds the power. I see my practice as a similar sort of report, but on events which occur within the mind; psychological happenings which emerge intrinsically and require a degree of urgency to be interrogated properly. That essential immediacy is always found in drawing; the capturing of a half-remembered dream, a flash of inspiration or a moment of keen observation – all allowed only by the readiness of graphite, charcoal and ink. Drawing, for me, represents both the inception of an idea but also its full realisation and as such the medium is the fundamental component to my practice.  

Dexter Phillips

The Drawing Year has provided me with a sense of tutelage and community which I have seldom encountered elsewhere in education. The most outstanding thing about the course might very well be the quality of the teaching. Engaging with truly passionate educators who are active in their own art practises has allowed me to envision myself as an artist, and not just a student. Continued, open and genuine dialogue with these brilliant tutors has allowed me to think not just about my learning, or the outcomes of The Drawing Year, but also the road that lies ahead of me as a practitioner. This has felt invaluable and something that I was not able to acquire anywhere else in my experience of education.  

The School has been immensely supportive in regards to the pandemic and ongoing problems caused by Covid-19. My initial term was spent online due to the national lockdown and I was amazed at how well the delivery of teaching had been adapted to meet the needs of a digital learning environment. Regular contact with The Drawing Year managers and coordinators helped me to feel acknowledged and informed. Since returning to on-site learning, all Drawing Year staff have been astoundingly patient, considerate and consistent in their commitment to keeping the school safe, comfortable and conducive to learning.  

Dexter Phillips drawing

The most important thing I have learned on the course is how to investigate the construction of a picture. I have been influenced by the out of house museum programmes, particularly Drawing at the British Museum and Drawing at the National Gallery. I have gained a much deeper insight into how European paintings are composed, designed and built through a series of techniques, mediums and contexts. Working from historical artefacts and art objects has given me not just a wealth of inspiration but also a broader understanding of how my own work could potentially operate in relation to these institutions and their contents.   

Dexter Phillips

As a black person of mixed heritage, growing up in London, some of the larger museums and contained artworks could feel somewhat impenetrable in terms of their contents and history, but after spending time in these places, with Drawing Year tutors, my confidence has been bolstered immensely. I have a clearer understanding of how these pictures sit in relation to contemporary art and my own picture making, particularly in regards to building compositions and spaces to communicate my own meanings. These classes have afforded me the opportunity to begin referencing my work within the parameters of a global, historical context, something which I think has helped me to better understand my fledgling identity as an artist.  

I have also benefited immensely from the Life Drawing and Anatomy class, which has helped me to really hone and solidify my observational understanding of the human figure. This class helped me to bridge the gap between seeing and imagining, to translate observation into construction. The process of creating original figures from a bank of remembered drawings is a new and pivotal skill which I have acquired, thanks to this class.  

Dexter Phillips

While my Drawing Year cohorts and I began our journey during a time of strict social isolation, I believe that we have overcome the odds to develop into a well-rounded and supportive unit. This is in no small part due to the efforts of the School staff, who all helped me to feel like I was part of something larger than myself, through regular contact and a general atmosphere of amicability and cooperation. Access to the studio spaces has allowed me to organically and frequently exchange ideas and opinions with my course-mates, building an ongoing dialogue which has been crucial to not just the development of my work but also the sense of belonging to a mutually beneficial community of artists. 

Aside from the opportunity to meet such a wonderfully talented and engaged network of artists and educators, The Drawing Year has also provided me the opportunity to participate in the Young Artists programme. As somebody who has some small experience of teaching, the programme is an invaluable chance for me to greatly expand and broaden my skills as an arts educator.  

Dexter Phillips drawing in is studio

I plan to continue developing my artistic practice, spending some time to fully absorb what I have learned during the course. Alongside that, I am excited to continue working with the Young Artists programme, and look forward to embracing any further teaching opportunities that might arise along with it. The course has also given me the confidence to engage more with institutions, such as The National Gallery, and I believe London’s museums will play an important role in the development of my work moving forward. I envision that my future practice will involve three pillars; working within museums, continuing to educate young artists and maintaining an ongoing practice of experimental image making.