THE NAUGHTY CORNER
Artist Hayden Kays wants to tick your pleasure box
by Freddie Machin
Painter, sculptor and printmaker Hayden Kays has been described as ‘one of a new generation of Pop artists’. Collected by contemporary art royalty Jake Chapman as well as pop music star Harry Styles of One Direction. He has just been exhibited at Glastonbury Festival’s Shangri-La – the throbbing heart of the festival after hours. The theme of Glasto’s all-night ‘naughty corner’ in 2014 was Heaven and Hell, a wonderland of creativity where Kays will poked fun at capitalism, art and pretension with his trademark acerbic wit and pithy social commentary. KOD caught up with him in the eclectic heart of London, the city he calls home.
KOD: What are you presenting at Glastonbury this year, Hayden?
Hayden Kays: I’ve done an eight-foot by sixteen-foot billboard which is going to be installed at Shangri-La. It’s called ‘A Bigger Bang for your Buck’.
KOD: That’s one hell of a canvas…
Hayden Kays: I think a lot of my work lends itself to being very big and in your face because the nature of it is quite in your face often. I’m massively inspired by advertising and magazines and graphic language generally. I was actually going to print them myself and go out guerrilla posting them up. But because of the cost and legal constraints, it just didn’t seem worth the headache. So it’s absolutely amazing that I’ve been asked to do a billboard.
KOD: I believe Jake Chapman owns some of your work.
Hayden Kays: I’ve got an interesting relationship with Jake. I’ve met him a few times and have always been a gushing fan, after admiring them [Jake and Dinos] at art school.
I was talking to him at one of his private views saying are you going to do anymore Hitler work [The Chapman Brothers bought artworks created by Hitler and defaced them] and he said they’d love to but they’ve pushed the price up so much of Hitler’s only existing paintings that they can’t buy them anymore.
I did a piece that said ‘when I grow up I want to be a famous artist, failing that I’ll kill millions of people’ and I sent it to Jake as a gift. He sent me a really beautiful book back that he’d illustrated thanking me. So we’ve got this weird exchange predominantly of Hitler pieces.
KOD: Do you think it’s the role of an artist to be a provocateur, poking fun and posing difficult questions?
Hayden Kays: I think that’s my role as an artist but I don’t think that’s the role of every artist. If everyone did it, it would be boring. I think the role of the artist reflects the time they are alive. Which is why I’m blown away when you go to some of the art shows and people are still doing watercolours of beaches. I just can’t see any relevance for that in 2014.
KOD: Do you worry that your work might upset people?
Hayden Kays: I feel really proud of what I do. I try and be as eclectic as I’m able to be so there’ll hopefully be something out of the 500 bits I’ve made that will at least tick one of your boxes of pleasure. Maybe it’s a vanity thing so you can’t say you hate me, there’s always going to be one redeeming feature.
KOD: Along with the likes of Damien Hirst and David Bailey you were one of a handful of artists invited to re-design a Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet for ArtWars, did you enjoy the process?
Hayden Kays: I was really unbelievably lucky with it. I was thinking about it for ages. And the more I looked at it, the more I wanted to retain it, because I knew other artists would go to town on it and kind of embellish it so it was almost unrecognisable, but I wanted to leave the helmet as much in tact as possible and do something like a shadow around it. I didn’t design the show’s poster although it looks like I did because I got an entire column which was a massively happy accident on my part. But obviously I was thrilled.
KOD: Your ‘Jihad is Over’ piece is a homage to John Lennon, are you going to release a single to accompany it like he did?
Hayden Kays: I never thought about that. Possibly, now you’ve suggested it. Do a crass music video for it as well.
KOD: I believe you re-created an iconic image of John and Yoko in a photo shoot this morning, how did it go?
Hayden Kays: I didn’t want to recreate the image too heavily, we spoke about doing it with me fully hammed up as Lennon, wearing a wig and beard and proper circular spectacles. Luckily I couldn’t get hold of a wig and I think it would have looked a bit too comedy. I’m a massive John and Yoko fan, so I didn’t want to take the piss out of what they did. I wanted it to be a respectable homage rather than a Christmas cracker take on it. I really admire them, I think they did wonders for the world in terms of love and peace and spreading that message.