Dejan Cekanovic’s attitude to hairdressing? Practice really does make perfect. “My belief is that if you practice something a lot you will master it, and then you can break the rules”. The self-taught Serbian hairdresser, who was born and raised in Sweden, has been working with hair for over 25 years. His clients include Shu Uemura, H&M and Kérastase, and his work has been featured in publications including Harpers Bazaar, Volt and Tush.
But there is one project in particular that is ongoing, and has spanned close to 20 years so far, with no plans to stop. This is Cekanovic’s Doll Series: dozens of striking photographs of painted dolls, each one sporting elaborate sculpted hair pieces. Using plastic dolls and practice heads, Cekanovic adopts a DIY process when it comes to the series, constructing the entire image himself. Hair, make-up, lighting and photography are all done by Cekanovic, through “a combination of me teaching myself, and friends showing me things”.
Distorted through bold, mask-like paint and equally bold photography, the result is visually striking, with arresting imagery. Some dolls look robotic, others are abstract, and the images seem to toe the line between beautiful and grotesque. While these pieces have been exhibited, the project remains entirely personal – allowing Cekanovic to adhere to his motto that practice makes perfect: “it allows me to play with my creativity and try to take hair in a different direction than I’m used to”.
“When I’m in my studio working, I’m still just a kid playing with hair”
How would you classify your artistic style? Playful, dark, childish, technical, simple, and sometimes aggressive.
The hair and make-up in your Doll series seems to nod to themes including tribal beauty, heavy metal and perhaps even some horror references? Are these things that you look to for inspiration? Life and the people in it are my main inspiration. Music, movies, cartoons, vinyl toys, art in all its aspects, different cultures, history, elements of African and Japan culture… I do like things to look a bit weird, and a lot of people mention that it reminds them of horror – which is ironic because I’m too scared of horror movies to watch them!
What is the most satisfying aspect of your work? I just feel really lucky to have found something I love doing, let alone that I can make a living from! When I’m in my studio working, I’m still just a kid playing with hair.