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Eleanor Hardwick’s Deconstructing/Complimentary
Photography Eleanor Hardwick

How to use art to give two-fingers to the patriarchy

Photographer Eleanor Hardwick breaks down the notion that femininity is a complimentary element in a ‘man’s world’

At just 22, Oxford-born, London-based photographer Eleanor Hardwick is tackling one of the oldest systems in the world; the patriarchy. By using her own body as a vehicle for her personal and political beliefs, she believes it allows her to produce work that’s more genuine. A practice that sees her acting on the moment "at the exact same time the emotion comes to me”, she says, “It just feels right to me to create personal, political work where I am the subject, as opposed to enforcing my beliefs on someone else.”

A multi-disciplinary artist – she’s a curator and director, as well as Rookie magazine’s staff photographer, a member of World Wide Women collective and fronts her own musical act, Moonbow – her latest series "Deconstructing the Complementary Colour" sees her juxtaposing bare skin and mirrors with fruit and blood – historical art representations of femininity as well as life and death. She explains, “The concept is looking at my own body and the way in which society places womanhood and female beauty as complementary to a man’s world – and how to break those ideas down through clashing imagery."

This idea stems from her own experiences as a female artist, “and how you often can be treated like a condiment to the dish of patriarchy”. She adds, “It seems that so much of life is unnecessarily split into binaries, and some people believe that to equalise the balance between these dualities, a complementary element must be present to make the primary element stronger. For example, the notion that femininity must be there to soften masculinity, or weakness to validate strength.”

“It seems that so much of life is unnecessarily split into binaries... For example, the notion that femininity must be there to soften masculinity, or weakness to validate strength” – Eleanor Hardwick

Breaking down such binaries, Hardwick brings together feminine symbolism with “the very balanced feeling of compositions” of Russian painters and art theorists Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky and Kazimir Severinovich Malevich. “It’s a series deconstructing both the rules of patriarchy and the rules in art”, she reveals, “I was thinking about this in relation to the complementary colours’ relationship to primary colours, the way you are taught it in elementary school, and how actually I think that mindset in life, art and feminism is very wrong. So I wanted to create a series that challenges this idea of unbalanced dualities.”

So, how do we bring the balance back to a point where women can break free of the ‘man’s world’? “It’s not about excluding men”, she riffs “it’s giving all those underrepresented voices a chance to shout before a time comes when we can all talk at the same level. That’s why I think female-only spaces are important, and this is why Polyester zine, Rookie and World Wide Women Collective have all become very supportive for me to work with. Saturating the art and fashion industry with underrepresented genders (and races and social classes) is important. Before a gender equilibrium, we need to make up for the years of art history where women are missing from the timeline, by actually pushing the balance the other way for a bit.”

To see more work from Hardwick, click here, or follow her on Instagram