Getting to know the Big Issues guests

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Dylan Phillips and Heather Doram appeared on the Big Issues on April 23 to discuss the relevance of Art Week 2023. Host Barbara Arrindell found out more about Phillips.

Observer: What type of art do you specialise in?

Dylan Phillips: I specialise in abstract and surrealism.

Observer: For the non-artist please explain what surrealism is?

Dylan Phillips: Surrealism is a 20th century avant-garde movement in art and literature which sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, sometimes by the irrational juxtaposition of images.

Observer: Who or what got you interested in art?

Dylan Phillips: I was inspired by Japanese manga artists like Keisuke Itagaki when I was younger, but I never took it seriously. It was during the pandemic that I had a moment of self-reflection and decided to pursue art full-time.

Observer: What things other than art are you passionate about?

Dylan Phillips: I’m passionate about music mostly. I listen to most genres of music. I can find something that I like in all; soft rock, heavy metal, bossa nova, jazz, rap, classical, Japanese city pop, funk, calypso – the sky’s the limit really.

Observer: What was your art experience like in school?

Dylan Phillips: In secondary school I was introduced to the Japanese comic genre of manga and that piqued my interests in art. I would draw my own little comics in the back of my books. I found comfort in it. I took art from forms one to two.

Academically I wasn’t the best, so when it came time to choose my subjects for third form, the school decided to allocate subjects they thought I would have a chance of passing. Art wasn’t one of them. But I picked it up again when I entered form five, hoping to attempt it for CXC, but I wasn’t advanced enough so was not allowed to continue.

Observer: What would you like to see done at a community and school level to help promote art as an option earlier and to identify people who are talented?

Dylan Phillips: There needs to be something for people to look forward to. There are few artistic role models immediately in sight to look to in Antigua, or at least they are not highlighted.

Art is seen as a lesser occupation. If we can change the perception of art, I think that would be a good starting point. If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will always seem like a fool and sadly the school system here forces fish to climb trees.

Our curriculum needs to be updated with the artistically inclined in mind, and there needs to be an avenue where a young aspiring artist can see a path leading to an economic future in this field.

Observer: Let’s talk about Dylan the individual. Who are you? Where are you from? What schools did you attend? Tell us a bit about your family.

Dylan Phillips: I attended the Minoah Magnet Academy Primary School, and St Joseph’s Academy Secondary School. I am Antiguan born and raised. I grew up with my mom. I have nine sisters, all older than me. Two grew up with me.

I was a solitary kid, especially in my early teens. As Mom had to work nights, I would be home by myself a lot of the time, not really getting to see much of her. My father provided for me, but I didn’t get to see much of him either. He didn’t live with us and he too had to work, so it was often just me and my thoughts. I used to build little contraptions out of things I could find around the house, even making figurines out of the Capri Sun straws to keep me company.

Observer: And now? Dylan the adult family man?

Dylan Phillips: I have three kids, two girls and a boy. I’m married. They, my children, all have an aptitude for the arts. We often paint together, but they give me the drive to be the best that I can be, or at least to try my best. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

Observer: And finally, what are your dreams and aspirations?

Dylan Phillips: Honestly, I take things one day at a time. I hope to have a physical location where I can display my works. Hopefully, someday I’ll be able to inspire other artists to pursue their passion.

My message to everyone pursuing a career in the arts is: If you’re not serious, don’t do it. But if you are serious, you must endure and believe in yourself. You are a lot stronger than you think.

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