Security cameras bear down upon a plastic water bottle. Two figures embrace, distracted by smartphones. Fruits and vegetables grow from radioactive soil. Acid rain strikes the earth. These are paintings by Cuban-born, Switzerland-based Dayamí Hayek, an artist engaging with the key issues of our times through clever visual and textual juxtapositions. “I have always been worried about the future of the earth,” she says. “I use my paintings to express my worries and what I consider unfair in the world.”
21 Views to the World is Hayek’s latest series. It addresses some of the major problems facing humanity today – including the fight for women’s rights, environmental pollution, racism and the impact of technology. “I‘ve travelled all around the world, and I couldn’t avoid feeling a strong empathy with all the pain and the beauty I saw,” the artist explains. One such striking work is Pangolin: The Menu of the Rich, featured at the top of the page. Visually, as a sculpture, it appears to be quite different from the rest of the series: smooth gold scales twist and turn, creating an abstracted metallic form. Here, Hayek is drawing attention to one of the most trafficked mammals in Asia. “I made a sculpture to represent such a beautiful and defenceless creature, whose meat in one of the most expensive in the illegal market.”
It’s an example of how, across portraits and abstractions, Hayek mixes media and messaging – drawing on brightly coloured materials, patterns and textures. “Upon my arrival to Spain, I worked for many years in interiors, home design and renovation,” the artist reflects. “That is when I learnt to use every kind of material. I made furniture, flooring, walls and many beautiful projects; that was the main doorway into what I am doing today.”
Hayek’s bold body of work is bursting with powerful concepts – encouraging viewers to stop and think. “My ideas come from my experiences and for the sensitivity of my heart. I live in Switzerland where some kind of “luxury” is part of daily life, but I come from Cuba and I don’t forget what is behind the mountains. My compositions use vivid colours to send a strong message, but never using an aggressive way, because I want children to understand our mistakes and help us to change the world.”
Hayek’s work can be seen at Miami Art Basel, Barcelona International and the Biennale di Venezia, amongst other projects that were postponed for the pandemic.
All images courtesy Dayamí Hayek.