ben wilson chewing gum artist

14 November 2010 § Leave a comment

Interestingly the name of Ben Wilson bubbled up again this week. Ben has been busily painting his tiny artworks over the blobs of chewing gum that mess up our pavements since about 2004, and every few years the newspapers notice that he is still out there. Starting near his home at Barnet in North London he has been steadily working his way outwards, occasionally venturing father afield. His minor masterpieces can also be seen in, for example, Manchester, Berlin, Paris and New York.

Immune from police prosecution, as he is actually painting the gum and not the pavement, he feels that he is reclaiming public spaces. He has commented that ‘Kids are not allowed to feel any connection with where they live.  The only imagery that children see around them are billboards and TV; every part of their environment is out of bounds or sold off. That’s why they don’t care about their streets. This is a small way of connecting people.’

Raw Vision, the Outsider art magazine, have featured his work, he has been filmed by the BBC, interviewed by the Observer and Telegraph and is a minor celebrity in South Korea after appearing on TV there. See him at work on a little bbc video here.  Apparently he does ‘commissions’ – if I spot him at work one day I may well try to persuade him to brighten up my local pavement with a few of his minor masterpieces.

A touch less tasteful as a way of  ‘reclaiming public spaces’ are the bubble gum ‘walls’ that can be seen in a number of places around the world including Seattle and St Louis Obispo. Strangely resembling some sort of cross between a Barry Reigate and Jackson Pollock canvas I guess that they could be categorised as graffiti art? But moving swiftly on…

Whilst Wilson uses single blobs of used gum as his canvas, Maurizio Savini goes a little farther and uses somewhat more for some remarkable sculptures. Some have sold for over $60,000, although Senza Titolo (the shoes pictured) were sold at auction for a more modest $2,000 earlier this year.

Represented in London by the Testori Gallery in St James Savini has said about the gum that ‘it seemed to me an amazingly versatile material compared to those used by the traditional arts such as painting…I believe that in my work … this material is redeemed and acquires a capacity and it has an expressive dignity of its own.’

It certainly possesses a certain power, the pink colour lending an air of unreality whilst the transformation of an ephemeral foodstuff  into sculpture lends a slightly disturbing quality.

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