> A certain slant of light

Trish Morrissey / A certain slant of light


Artist’s Statement:

A certain slant of light is an exhibition of photographs and films, based around the two last female residents of Hestercombe House, near Taunton, Somerset, a stately home and garden, parts of which date back to 1280. The house was owned by the same family from around 1400 until 1872 when Miss Elizabeth Maria Tyndale Warre, who never married and was the last of her line, died. It was then bought by the Portman family and on the death of Teddy Portman, was owned entirely by his wife, The Right Honourable Mrs Constance Portman, until her death in 1953.

Though very different in character, Miss Warre and Mrs Portman (as they were known) both had eccentric ways: Miss Warre was famous for her very personal take on fashions of the time and would cause a stir whenever she went shopping in Taunton in her home-made clothes and bonnets. Mrs Portman was very religious and forbade her house servants from going into the gardens, or even looking out the window. There are no images of Miss Warre apart from a painting made when she was about seven years old.  Mrs Portman on the other hand was extensively photographed, as her son was a keen photographer. 

Archives are dead, or maybe just dormant until they are reopened and sifted through. Time is the door through which new light can be shed. The passage of time, the changes in society and deeper understanding of circumstances allow new interpretations to be made. The photographs, drawings, letters, newspaper articles, written testimonies, shopping receipts and estate accounts held in the Hestercombe Archive were inspiration for my work. While focusing on events from the women’s lives, I also explored broader themes of class and role-play, body and gestures, the language of photography, the representation of women and the relation between private and public spaces.

By elaborating on anecdotal accounts and existing imagery and performing all the roles myself, I play with notions of fact, fiction, time, history, imagined internal dialogues and external notions of control and use performance to create a kind of visual drama, a historical fiction that might – as the author Hilary Mantel has suggested – ‘take the past out of the archive and relocate it in a body.’

 – Trish Morrissey 2017



Trish Morrissey: A certain slant of light is exhibiting at Hestercombe Gallery, Somerset until February 25th 2018. Recent solo and two person shows were held at Bohuslans Museum, Sweden (2016), Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2010), and Impressions Gallery Bradford, UK (2009). Recent group exhibitions include Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2015), Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy (2014) and the Perth Institute for Contemporary Arts, Australia (2012). My work is in the permanent collection of The Gosta Serlachius Fine Art Foundation, Finland, The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The National Media Museum, Bradford and the Wilson Centre for Photography, London. My work is included in several survey publications, most notably, ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’ by Charlotte Cotton, (Thames and Hudson, 2005) ‘Vitamin Ph, Survey of International Contemporary Photography,’ (Phaidon 2006), ‘Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography’, by Susan Bright (Thames and Hudson 2010), and ‘Photography and Ireland’ by Justin Carville, (Exposures 2012). Two monographs ‘Seven Years’ (2004) and ‘Front’ (2009) were published by Impressions Gallery.