24/06/2011 by Sarah Ritchie
OK…here’s one type of art that’s extremely clever and just a little “weird” (aren’t they all, I hear someone say?!).
Ben Wilson is a familiar figure around the streets of London where he can usually be found lying prone – with a paintbrush – on the sidewalk.
Ben is a “chewing gum artist” (I do hope that he coined that phrase, otherwise it implies that there are more chewing gum artists out there, which could be a concern…). Ben hunts out the perfect pieces of discarded, stamped upon and flattened blobs of chewing gum, and uses them as canvases for his mini-masterpieces. Yes, I know, the first reaction is “ick”, isn’t it? Keep going, it does get better!
Frustrated by the rubbish, cars and industrial waste that consume his city, Ben has long expressed his environmental views through art made from discarded rubbish. The choice of using chewing gum as a substrate is actually a smart, considered move – Ben cannot be fined or arrested for this type of public work/street art (as he was not the one who discarded the gum in the first place). Sad, though also quite fitting, is the knowledge that Ben’s chewing gum art is ephemeral – time and friction will one day destroy his work.
“Our environment is very controlled and what we need so very strongly is diversity. Even galleries, museums, publishing companies are all very controlled. I want to be able to do my work and to bypass bureaucracy.”
“Lots of people have created the chewing gum which is on the pavement. I thought I could work with the gum. I thought if I make something special out of something that people find disgusting – not making too many judgments about it, just working with it and then seeing what happens.”
“I love London as a city and if you can take something which is thrown away and make something else it’s exciting.”
– Ben Wilson
His work can mostly be seen around the London suburbs of Barnet (where Ben grew up) and Muswell Hill (where he now lives). Check out the short video clip, below, to find out more about this fascinating (and slightly stomach churning) artform.