Hayden Kays: Knitting Jumpers For Trees 

We ask artist Hayden Kays the big questions that really matter 


Hayden Kays has been saluted as one of the most dynamic and provocative artists in the UK, creating work that both identifies and twists some of the most obvious and inconspicuous traits of the world around us with deadpan humour. Nothing is off limits. 

While his disciplines stretch across painting, sculpture and printmaking, arguably his greatest attainment was arriving on the Kent coast at sunny Margate. Set to exhibit at edgy gallery space Artgame, we got hold of the famous artist to ask him some really, really, really important questions. 

How did you get involved in Artgame, and why? 

I’ve been living between Margate and London now for three years, slowly spending more of that time-split in Margate. I love the space here. The space to breathe. The space to see. 

The space to see the sea! 

I’d been considering doing a show over the Turner Prize as soon as I learnt it was being held here. I was approached by Artgame and I leapt at the chance. It’s a great space, in a great location. 

Why did you choose to move to Margate? Was it because of the excellent amusement arcades? 

It was mainly the litter and the dogsh*t that were the real draw for me; the sunsets were a close third. 

Dying To Grow Up Round My Neck Of The Woods - Hayden Kays

Dying To Grow Up Round My Neck Of The Woods - Hayden Kays

Do you have a piece described as ‘your best work’; what is it and do you agree with it? 

I was actually asked what my most financially successful piece was the other day by a banker at 2am. 

I told him I didn’t treat financial gain as any great mark of success. He said he didn’t understand me. I said he didn’t understand life. 

Of my own work I still like Cold Turkey and Dying To Grow Up Round My Neck Of The 


Of collectors’ preferred work, it’s often the case that the quickest ideas that I don’t feel are going to connect strike a chord.

The pieces I slave over and think are going to be a winner often fall flat. If I knew what the magic recipe was, I’d probably be bored.

Which discipline do you get the most joy out of? Sculpture? Print? Paint? 

I don’t actually get a huge amount of joy out of making things. I do get a huge amount of joy out of made things. I love the finished idea, the complete object. 

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it feels like magic. 

There’s a feeling of alchemy to making art. 

Step 1: Take a bunch of pre-existing materials and ideas 

Step 2: Break them down to their core elements 

Step 3: Mix 

Step 4: Stand back 

Step 5: Art* (*hopefully) 

Cold Turkey - Hayden Kays

Cold Turkey - Hayden Kays

You have exhibited alongside some amazing artists; is there one you were a real fan of beforehand? 

I’ve said this before, but ultimately I’m just an enormous fan. I think everyone that does anything starts life as a massive fan of that thing. 

I used to copy cartoons as a kid, then I copied paintings at art school, then I copied photos when I briefly fancied being a photographer. 

Copy everything. Don’t try to be original. Everyone is trying to do that. Be truly original and copy everything. 

What has been your favourite experience as an artist? 

I tend not to like the word favourite as it’s totally dependent on my mood. Art is a key, and that key has opened some wonderfully surreal doors to me. 

I genuinely believe there’s not a door on Earth it can’t open. 

How important is it that artists continue to comment/highlight/poke fun at modern political and social issues through art? 

I think it’s important that artists do whatever the fu*k they want to do. If that involves knitting jumpers for trees, that’s what that artist has to get out of themselves. 

I hate that rubbish people say: ‘Oh I can’t draw’. Everyone that can hold a pen in their hand, or stick it in any orifice they deem suitable, can draw. 

Artists can only make things out of the things and about the things around them. If you’re surrounded as we are by political nonsense, ideas will come out of it. 

David David Bowie - Hayden Kays

David David Bowie - Hayden Kays

Do you ever check yourself out on Wikipedia; is it correct, and do you ever get tempted to add bits for extra flavour? 

I wish I could edit things online. I’m a bit of a Luddite. I just prefer using my hands and physical things. Let me check my wiki now… 

So, I was born in 1985 in London. I don’t think my work has any ties to ‘street art’. I did sell 

20 pieces to Harry Styles, and I do have a book. 

What can we expect from Hayden Kays in the next 12 months? 

I’m going to start a band called The Beatles, I’ve got a fu*king good feeling about it. 

Tell us about your Artgame loft apartment...

It's called The Fun in The Funeral & Eat Sleep Pollute Repeat.
My room is about life and the destruction of it. We are filling our lives with technology, and filling our oceans with plastic. We discuss our modern life as progression, what are we progressing into? Turn off your phone, relax and float down stream...
I think we should use more and more and more plastic. Let's cover every inch of earth in it, until it's knee deep. The temperature on earth will rise to melting point. The plastic will entomb everything within it, making a fantastic plastic jacket. It's a new dawn, it's a new day, and I’m feeling bleak.

Everything I make is a celebration of life. Everything we do, we should be celebrating. We're not here for a long time, we're here for a good time. Now, get off your phone - go outside! Throw some plastic in the sea whilst you're at it.

@HaydenKays @artgamemargate