Unlike the vast array of media many conceptual artists use, most of Hassans’ work is done using one of three specific mediums, namely watercolours, collages or installation based compositions. The majority of Hassans’ work focuses on contemporary South Africa life and the effects of poverty on our society.
The artist explains that “Our lives have always been torn and put together, torn and put together – people have always been pushed around” this statement has direct political and personal connotations reflecting both on Hassans’ life and the political history of South Africa. This statement also links with his interest in collages, where materials are torn up and reassembled as part of something new.
After winning the Daimler Chrysler Award in 2000, Kay Hassan traveled abroad and became aware that many issues he had previously tackled from a South African perspective were universal problems.
When exhibited in the South African National Gallery, the piece was accompanied by a series of inter-related Polaroid negatives and rubber stamps obtained from the Home Affairs Department, indicating a theme of classification and division.In the main piece Hassan depicts groups of displaced migrants and refugees. Although drawing from his experiences in South Africa, the suffering of political and religious refugees is a worldwide topic.
The piece combines a collage, made up of torn up billboards and paint, and an installation containing a number of scrap bicycles, all with blankets, suitcases and bags packed on the back, highlighting the poverty experienced by many. On the back of one of the bicycles is a television with a repeating documentary video playing about the student uprisings in South Africa which emphasizes the topic of oppression and rejection.
The piece also reflects the everyday hustle and bustle of street life where good conversation mingles with desperation. The rawness and roughness is this piece, largely attributed to the mediums used, portrays a good depiction of the rapidly changing society we are living in. His work makes a bold political statement and questions the role of classism in contemporary society by dividing his collage into two segments, easily distinguishable by the use of colours in each.