Hayden Kays’ Top 10 opens in Dubai
“We are all peripheral characters in other people’s lives”, reads one print, the letters in a typewriter face cosying up to a dog-leg of coloured circles. Another, with a single line of text over a swirl of colour familiar to Mac users, suggests the artist will “never be able to forgive Apple for jeopardising my unwavering love of rainbows”.
Humorous, accessible, but pleasingly oblique, the work of Londoner Hayden Kays is hard to categorise. His pieces, mostly in A4, are almost like art postcards, the kind found on the bedroom walls of well-educated teenage girls. But they have levels. Their immediate appeal – and they are designed to be commercial – is thrown off balance by subtle changes of pace, often fuelled by titles like “Missing you is like having you here”.
Born and raised in London, Kays has developed a following that has long since moved beyond cult. One of his works was bought by Harry Styles of One Direction, which probably means he’ll never be obscure again.
He is now showing a selection of his work in a new Dubai exhibition called “The Top 10”, a truncated version of his “Hot 100” show that first appeared in London. It is on view at Tribeca, a suitably Hoxton-y bar-cum-lounge in the JA Oceanview Hotel, JBR, where there’s more exposed brick than Battersea Power Station.
We managed to grab a few words before the big reveal.
Obvious opener: The exhibition is called The Top Ten. Top ten of what?
The Hot One Hundred was a collection of 100 original hand typed, printed, painted, collaged and illustrated original unique A4 artworks. The exhibition was held at The COB Gallery in London 2013. I started toying with the idea of an edited show when personal favourites and public favourites began appearing. The Top Ten is a selection of both.
Do you like that editing process? Do you respond well to exclusion or limitation (to focus the message or showcase your “best”), or is it like choosing favourite children… you feel bad for the ones that didn’t make it?
As an artist you're constantly editing yourself. Everything is a decision to include or exclude.
I think making art is creating a balance of image. Making art for me a reflection of all life. We all make decisions of what to include in our lives and what to exclude every day, and I believe we are all seeking a sense of balance. Art is a reflection of life.
First thing that struck us was how similar a lot of your work is to book covers… they seem to prompt a desire to look beneath the cover. Are books or printed material a creative inspiration?
I love books. I designed the cover and produced loads of original pieces for A Journey Through The Heart Of A Pig by Johnny Lloyd. He’s a very dear friend of mine so he trusted me entirely with the process.
I like to think my work isn't totally understood on the first viewing or even the tenth. I think when you understand and answer things you move on and away from them. I want my art to be revisited time and time again.
Your work has been used on album covers, too. Where does graphic art find a home in the digital age?
I think graphic art gave birth to the digital age. Artists began making sharper, cleaner shapes and lines and this created a need for progression. The progression manifested itself within technology.
Which piece of yours is most likely to sell for $179 million in 90 years’ time?
I'm not preoccupied with what my work sells for in 90 years. That's my grandchildren's concern. I'm only thinking about what my work sells for in the next 90 seconds.
What will be the overriding emotion with which that people will leave your exhibition?
I hope to leave people with a sense of joy and hope.