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The Chewing Gum Man

Ben Wilson is taking art to the streets
chewing gum man Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

Street artist Ben Wilson’s distaste for industrial waste, cars and rubbish has led him to embrace a rather unusual material for his art.

A woodcarver by trade, Ben – also known as ‘The Chewing Gum Man’ – started to paint on chewing gum in 1998, and adopted the medium full time in October 2004.

Ben has braved the elements to create more than 10,000 miniature works on pavements all over the UK and in parts of Europe. He spends up to 10 hours painting colourful designs and pictures onto gum, which is first heated with a blow torch and then treated after painting with lacquer.

‘It’s about social cohesion’

Most of the gum used is found around Muswell Hill in London, where Ben lives, and Ben has recently created an art trail from St Paul’s to the Tate Modern across the Millennium Bridge in London.

‘My work evolves out of the place in which I work. Rather than imposing the idea on the place, the idea comes out of the place.

‘I’m doing work that’s for the people. It’s about social cohesion. Every time I do a picture for a different person, it’s making links between people. It’s vital we think more deeply about our human connection both to Nature and one another.’

Ben Wilson, The Chewing Gum Man

Ben will be heading to Leeds next week (and Bristol in July) as one of Human Nature Show’s artists.

Art on the streets

Ben believes there is a pretentiousness around a lot of art that can be intimidating. Instead, he’s taking art out of the gallery and onto the streets so that everybody can see it and enjoy it.

‘I am upset by all the garbage and sense of disconnection where people just affect things in a slightly detached way. When people detach from the environment, that’s when the environment gets destroyed and that’s also when people destroy each other.

‘When a person throws chewing gum, it’s a thoughtless action. I’m turning that around. People think they don’t have an effect. But all the people that chew gum and throw it on the street, they created that. Once painted, it suddenly takes on new meaning and has been given the kind of worth that would otherwise be unthinkable.’

Ben Wilson, The Chewing Gum Man

As well as working on gum, Ben has exhibited his paintings and sculptures in England, the United States, Germany, Ireland, Finland, France and Serbia.

Ben will be painting on the streets of Leeds from Wednesday 22-24 April and showing his work at Human Nature from 23 April-2 May. Register here for free tickets to Human Nature at The Gallery at Munro House in Leeds.

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