Thursday, January 5, 2017


They are everywhere. They stick to your shoes while walking in most cities where they are considered a worse blight and eyesore than graffiti. City maintenance crews try fruitlessly to get the candy colored fruit gobs out with solvents, pressurized steam hoses, scrapers and yet, still they cling like lichens to rock. 

However in London, England there is one artist who has made it his job to transform the abandoned chewed out gum wads into something more creative. His distaste for industrial waste, cars and rubbish led him to turn the gum splats into a tiny art form. He creates his tiny works of art by painting the chewing gum stuck to the pavement into miniature paintings. 

Ben Wilson spent years becoming enraged by all the rubbish, cars and industrial waste that had become a large part of urban society. He retreated to the woods, worked in secret but still was faced with running into a littered environment. He began to work with the rubbish he found, collecting cigarette-butts and crisp packets, incorporating them into his collages. Working with on site chewing gun seemed a natural progression to him. 

He started experimenting with chewing-gum paintings back in 1998 but decided to work with them full time in October of 2004. For a number of years he had tried to make a difference to the urban environment by painting on billboards, but this was an illegal activity that often led to trouble with the law. The new medium of chewing-gum miniatures allowed him to paint onto already discarded gum spots anywhere without having to obtain permission and without crossing with the law. It enabled him to make his paintings in a spontaneous manner satisfying a certain freedom to show his works in the streets of London. "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", he says. 

Starting in Barnet High Street in North London, Wilson started his trail of pictures that people could follow from there all the way into the city. Two years later he still spends a majority of his painting time in Barnet where he grew up and in Muswell Hill, where he, his partner, Lily and their three children live. He has become deeply involved in the lives of the area's residents. "I know a lot of the shopkeepers, road sweepers and the local police. As I walk down the street, every few steps I think of a picture I have to do for someone. I have all this in my head, which makes me feel closer to the place and the people." He hopes his work will encourage in others an awareness of their surroundings and give children a sense of connection to where they live - something he believes fewer and fewer people have these days.