DEBRA PHILLIPS BACK WASH 2008, INSTALLATION VIEW GOMA
Debra Phillips was born in 1958 in Melbourne. She studied at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, completing a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1979 and a Master of Visual Arts (Research) in 1990. Her practice, while always underpinned by photography, ranges across other forms such as sculptural objects, artist multiples and printed matter – including books, prints and newspapers.
Phillips has exhibited widely since the mid-1980s. She has had two major solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales – a survey exhibition, Debra Phillips: Work 1992–1995 (1995) and a Contemporary Projects Space exhibition, 52 sidelong glances (2001). 52 sidelong glances was also exhibited at Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (2006).
Other solo exhibitions include: One thing leads to another at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2006); Debra Phillips at BREENSPACE, Sydney, (2009); On this day at Anna Leonowens Gallery Nova Scotia College of Art & Design University, Halifax (2011); and The roundest object in the world at BREENSPACE (2012).
Debra Phillips’s practice investigates systems of knowledge and understanding and their relationship to the thinking, making and shaping of individual and world views. Photography is central to her work – the materiality of photography as well as its structures of representation, convention and classification and the way it supposedly records the real world.
Phillips explores recurring themes such as the way things fall into disuse or disappear, the indeterminacy of the physical world and the limitations of imperial quests for knowledge. Her art examines the actions of photography as a wilful, aberrant and imperfect form of record that partakes in the processes of everyday history-making.
Throughout her career, Phillips has focussed on the way that photography can operate both as a physical space in which to place things for consideration and as a structure through which we can critique the world.
Group exhibitions include Australian Perspecta 1993 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (1993), Photography is Dead! Long live Photography! at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1996); Perfect for every occasion: photography today at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2007); Contemporary Australia: Optimism at Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2008); and Photography & place: Australian landscape photography 1970s until now at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2011).
Public collections holding work by the artist include: Albury Regional Gallery; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Parliament House, Canberra; The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Tate Gallery Library, London; and The Library, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Debra Phillips lives and works in Sydney where she lectures in Photography at University of New South Wales Art & Design.