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Introduction

Drawn from the Gallery’s collection, the exhibition Flatlands: photography and everyday space examines photography’s role in transforming the way we see and perceive our inhabited environments, both public and private.

The works by 23 Australian and international artists depict ordinary spaces formed by streets, doors, walls, windows, stairs and ceilings. These images chart the gradual shift of such representations from descriptive to expressive, from functional to spiritual.

At the time of its invention in 1839, photography appeared to have the precise means to show the world ‘as it really is’. But during the first decades of the 20th century, this notion was being challenged by artists who were questioning established ideas about truth. Modernist photographers, in particular, pushed the boundaries between reality and abstraction to their limits while exploring the universe within the camera itself. For many artists working after World War II, everyday space is often seen to be a product of individual perception – an extension of the body and the mind.

In the works in this exhibition, the camera reveals metaphysical depths hidden in the ordinary. Collectively, these photographs destabilise our beliefs in what constitutes the real. The physical world they portray is constantly slipping into the intangible realm of dreams, memory and the imaginary.