Gum Painter Leaves a Chewing Gum Trail of Art

It sounds disgusting but "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"... For the past nine years, the artist (?) Ben Wilson has been making mini-paintings on the pavements of North London out of ABC (already been chewed) gum.

Now the masticatory maestro is having an exhibition of his work, as well as creating a new trail along a path in London's deepest east end. How could we resist? Well, actually we could, because the unexpected and unseasonal snow fall prevented anyone from seeing his artistic trail.

Ben Wilson spends days scouring the pavement for discarded gum that he can bring to life. He has created more than 5,000 mini paintings on the existing chewing gum on London’s streets. Each one is photographed and catalogued for his archive. A picture can take anything from two hours to three days to complete.

Working right on the street, as he does, Wilson has met so many people who stop to chat and sometimes request him to do a specific work for them. As well as producing his own compositions he takes commissions from members of the public.

The trail will be a wonderful allure for young and old as they try to find the small works of art along the path.

It's also an education: making something beautiful out of something that many find disgusting and that has been carelessly dumped on the street.

How does he do it? He explains his technique: "I use acrylic paint and varnish, then I've got a little burner to dry it. I've done different pictures cups of tea, elephants, flowers I do requests as well. Often I just draw whatever takes me on that day. The white chewing gums are not very good they will spread too big. I heat the gum up with a blowtorch. The size of the chewing gum can range from about one centimeter to about four centimetres. You melt the gum and it naturally finds its own level.” Afterwards he uses acrylic to paint on them.

Wilson does not consider himself a graffiti artist: "I'm not defacing the pavement, it is more sensitive than that. I don't want to get in people's faces I'm not a graffiti artist." However he does feel that all of our environment is so strongly controlled he sees this as a way to "be able to do my work and to bypass bureaucracy."

The Boiler House at Trinity Buoy Wharf is a new exhibition space that will be showing artists who are working on projects regarding the environment. They plan to link up with international artists who are involved with environmental issues. The next one, from New Zealand, will be painting a mural that looks at the fishing heritage of the area and concerns over the current state of the rivers, seas and oceans.

Gum Painter Leaves a Chewing Gum Trail of Art
ABC gum sounds disgusting, but it can be quite pretty -- after Ben Wilson gets his hands on it.

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