Hayden Kays…who is Hayden Kays? His first Solo Exhibition at the COB Gallery in Camden is called Household Name, showcasing his ‘Typewriter’ and ‘Impact’ series alongside a selection of new sculptural and installation pieces.

Researching him, I’m expecting a cocky git, a cheeky chappy, razorsharp repartee, rapier wit, that sort of thing…yes Volt Café is a little apprehensive. Am I really up to the challenge?

Arriving at the gallery, everyone is very excited, busy getting ready for the opening party. Hayden’s graphic THIS SHIT HITS tees and ‘Burka’ sweatshirts are on sale; ironic canapés (cream cheese on Ritz crackers with an accent of either dust mouse, chewed gum or cigarette butt, the latter an homage to Hayden’s cigarette packets in coffin installation downstairs) are being made and a photographer is taking pictures of Hayden’s works.

Hayden Kays and Noel Fielding at the preview

Feeling somewhat trepidatious, I am introduced to Hayden, who of course is lovely, funny and stimulating. Hayden’s on fire; rapidly painting images with his words, making you realise concepts of ideas you hadn’t even questioned. Also making you realise just how dull most conversations are.

Volt Café: Why the play on words, the punning –  funny, deep and irreverent all at the same time. Is the intention just to make people laugh?
Hayden Kays: No. I want to make the reader look properly at what I’m saying. And what is being said all the time. We’ve become a society of tweeters. Everything just flashes by and we’ve stopped dwelling on or even questioning the content. Take a tube journey – words are shouted at you from the minute you enter, the ads, the announcements, the free newspapers, advertising on people’s clothing and bags. Add to that the music from someone’s headphones and the conversations in multiple languages. It’s literally an assault of words! So we’ve become very adept at ignoring the message. Likewise with emails – you get so many that unless the strapline is really catchy, you kind of ignore them.

VC: I love the fact you call the header on an email a ‘strapline’ which is a magazine term for the lines on the cover that are meant to entice you to buy the magazine! I guess in order to be read these days one should tailor one’s headers to be as irresistible as possible…
Your planted question on This Morning (HK wrote in asking what to do about an addiction to cheeseburgers which had escalated into stockpiling them in handbags; not only did they actually take this seriously, they also thought Hayden was female) reminded me of playwright Joe Orton’s mischievous Edna Welthorpe letters. What did you want to achieve by doing that?
HK: I don’t like trickery. What I’m objecting to is people not investigating things properly. Take my The Sun ‘Celebs, Rapes, Paedos – we love it!’ tee. I wore it out and one guy actually asked me if I worked for The Sun!!! I’m argueing against that level of lack of reflection.

VC: You are very quick witted – does it ever get you into trouble?
HK: Frequently! I’m lippy on the bus and I get into fights!

VC: You have quite an analog approach – the manual typewriter, the silkscreen printing, the stamps. Why are you drawn to these media in particular?
HK: I like being anti the current world of slick. I’m mocking the modern world. Anyone can produce a uniform, glossy look digitally now. I like doing collage, using a scalpel. I’m from a generation that had an hour’s worth of computer time per week at school and I just never developed that side to my work. I did an Art and Design course, where I basically did what I do now, and then went on to study Fine Art at Middlesex. I always knew I wanted to be an artist, even at college that’s how I referred to myself if anyone asked.

VC: What does the word ‘artist’ conjure up for you?
HK: It’s an archaic word. It’s about expressing, holding up a mirror. I’m showing the world my mirror, showing you my baggage, my views.

VC: The Independent singled you out as being part of a new generation of Pop Artists. Do you admire any fellow artists, pop or otherwise?
HK: I’m very passionate about two graphic designers, Jack Kinnear and Margaret Calvert, who created the graphics for much of our ‘street furniture’ i.e the road signs that tell you what to do. I also like an artist called IMBUE. And Sarah Maple.

VC: Despite your quote 15 Minutes of Lame, are you drawn to fame? I noticed you had quotes by Keith Allen and Tracey Emin, are they real? The quotes I mean!
HK: I guess by being an artist I can’t avoid it. In order to spread my message I have to advertise myself. And I can’t do that and hide at the same time. The quotes are real! I sent a work to Lily Allen, which she really liked and Keith got in touch. The rest I got by emailing, that sort of thing. I actually don’t like emails very much, I love real letters. I sent all the invites to this show as letters.

VC: Why the name of the current show?
HK: It’s in jest…as I clearly couldn’t be further from being one! Maybe it’s a suggestion?

Hayden Kays
Till the 9th June 2012
The COB Gallery
205A Royal College Street
London NW1 0SG

All images by kind permission of Darren Gerrish
Words by Anna Bang


anna bang, Cob Gallery, Hayden Kays, Household Name, Joe Orton, Noel Fielding,