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Australian art

Contemporary art


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Untitled 1



Debra Phillips


1958 -


Debra Phillips considers the associative potential of photography. She is interested in the trail of history, how methodologies relate to each other as codes or systems, and how these also overlap with everyday life. Such concerns are apparent in the titles of her exhibitions and series, for example ‘The world as puzzle’ 2001 and ‘One things leads to another' 2006, which allude to the interconnectedness of things and ideas, both past and present.

Phillips has explored these ideas principally through the technology of photography, although she has also made numerous installations. In 1991 she took a series of images of dates that she found inscribed about the city of Paris, the various forms the dates took representing different stages of history, and the gaps in time between them alluding to the residue of an unknown past. The photographs and their inscriptions were also a way of understanding the city and its history. Similar concerns are encapsulated in the large body of work from 1993 to 1995 based on the notion of ‘Sillage’ (meaning wake, wash, trail) and featuring incidental images from the street, graffiti, the traces of time and people. ‘Untitled 1’ relates closely to this series. Individual images of the numeral one, zero, ten or 100, along with arrows and ‘x’ are assembled together on a single board. The markings are directional and provisional – symbols of an event and the result of human involvement. Through the accumulation of coincidental details, Philips traces a way of seeing and comprehension that is largely a metaphor for the way life and its histories are in a constant state of mutability, a network between extraordinarily diverse elements.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007




Media category


Materials used

16 gelatin silver photographs mounted on aluminium (unique work)


100.0 x 150.0 cm overall

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by Anonymous, Vivienne Sharpe, Michael Hughes and Katharine Allen, Peter Steigrad, and the Photography Collection Benefactors' Program 2002


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Debra Phillips

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Natasha Bullock, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Time - memory - place', pg.288-311, Sydney, 2007, 308 (illus.).

Vigen Galstyan, Look, 'Infinite flatness: exploring the intangible', pg. 28-29, Sydney, Oct 2012, 29.

Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sextext, Sydney, 1997.