Pop culture provocateur, Hayden Kays, is well known for his punchy, satirical, and subversive work. The artist talks to Hate about his love-hate relationship with all things pop culture, and his commission to design the logo for Help Refugees.
Can you explain the inspiration behind the Help Refugees logo and your involvement with the charity?
I’m obsessed with the media, so already had an abundant arsenal of potential imagery in mind when I was asked. Mostly the press pictures had negative connotations, but a handful contained hope and compassion. I wanted to produce something that contained this contradictory rhetoric. Thinking about the kindness and love I’d read about, I wanted the immediate feeling from the logo to be one of instantly recognisable love, thus the heart as chosen. Wanting the image to embody a feeling of conflict, I chose to construct the heart using barbed wire, a material inherently connected to division. I’m immensely proud that my artwork is associated with such compassion, kindness, empathy, and perhaps most importantly, humanity.
Your work was recently featured on the London tube map, how did that come about?
I can’t say too much about this project as it’ll get in trouble and could potentially jeopardise it. Keep an eye peeled though, it’s going to be a fun one that’ll probably get me in trouble in the end.
A lot of your work seems to satirise and mock popular culture, what are you trying to explore or achieve in this process?
My work is a love letter to pop culture, littered with complaints. As an artist you see the world exactly as it is, you also have your own improved version in your mind, you make art as an attempt to bridge the gap between the two worlds. I live with a conflicted internal space. I loathe and love the things I discuss. I want to be pop culture, but simultaneously want to shun it. I want to be unavoidable, I want to be like that ‘Dogs Playing Pool’ painting. I want my work to ultimately become so embedded in the shared space, you no longer even see it. I suppose I want to change pop culture, or at least add a shit load of imagery to it.
What would you like to see change in society?
I’d like to see the last politician strangled with the penis of the last priest.
What gives you optimism?
I remember all too well lying in bed as a very young child dwelling on the idea that everyone I’d ever love was going to die. I made the decision to smile while it lasts, subsequently I’m a pretty chipper soul.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on my second book. It’s going to be a proper coffee table one this time. I’ve got loads of ideas for it. I want to do more exhibitions abroad. I’m happiest travelling. My work is sent all over the world, I just wish I could follow it.
What advice would you give to other artists?
I’ll never forgot what an art teacher of mine once said, ‘never listen to other people’s advice, it only gets in the way’. Something like that, I wasn’t really paying attention.