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Ben Wilson paints a Chewing Gum Trail across the Millenium Bridge

Street artist Ben Wilson is unique. While his medium is acrylic his canvas is chewing gum. He’s become known as The Chewing Gum Man for the miniature gum paintings that you can find dotted around the globe.

Ben Wilson, aka The Chewing Gum Man, is an artist famous for his beautiful miniature paintings on chewing gum. His work sits outside the gallery space and in the public domain, it’s there for everyone. Ben’s chewing gum picture trail, that runs from St. Paul’s, across the Millennium Bridge and into the Tate Modern, has particularly piqued the interests of London’s many visitors – and it’s this which we want to celebrate with the book: Ben Wilson – The Millennium Bridge Gum Trail. Click here to see the Kickstarter Campaign


Ben Wilson is a familiar sight on the Millenium Bridge

“Chewing gum art evolves out of the environment rather than imposing the image on the environment,” says Ben. “It’s determined by the shape, or the human context – any people I encounter when I’m working.” They stop to observe, curious as to why he is lying on the ground painting. Some ask questions, “what are you doing?”, “why are you doing that?”. Ben is happy to chat and explain what and why. One of those reasons is to give a little space back to people in an environment dominated by advertising and other messaging that we have no say over. “On the bridge, things are happening on a different scale” he says. “There isn’t the fractiousness of traffic and noise. It’s an area where people from all around the world meet – the chewing gum paintings become a celebration of everyday life and people – their nationalities, religions and their belief systems.”


A landscape on Chewing Gum of St Pauls and the Millenium Bridge

Often people come around to telling Ben their own story and ask him if he’ll paint a picture for them. They’re all carrying thoughts, burdens, mysteries, hopes – which Ben transforms to leave a long-lasting mark of remembrance or celebration on a meticulously worked chewing gum splat. And why chewing gum? Ben wants to turn a thoughtless action, something that is casually spat out and trodden into the ground, into a thoughtful one.

Ben’s work sits in the public domain like few other artists; if you were to visit his Millennium Bridge gallery it might take more than a day to take in the 600+ of his paintings – the accident of shape, environment and the thoughts of hundreds of passers-by, brought together and translated into miniature art works.


Chewing Gum art by Ben Wilson

Abstract art on the Millenium Bridge by Ben Wilson

Pop Art Chewing Gum by Ben Wilson

Ben is an activist, beyond the legalities governing painting within a public space (the chewing gums remain under the ownership of the people who spat them out). He’s also been discretely placing his art works within the Tate Modern. Gallery spaces worldwide define what is, and isn’t, accepted and recognised as art – what belongs and what doesn’t. Ben believes his work has just as much a right to be in these curated spaces, as anywhere else. “Chewing gum art celebrates diversity of thought and diversity of action. Hopefully through my work I can promote more direct action on a grass roots level. More and more people feel out of control and I’m saying we can find creative solutions to make things happen in different ways.”

This was a guest post for Inspiring City by David Reeve. A kickstarter campaign has been launched to raise money for ‘Ben Wilson – The Millennium Bridge Trail’ a new book on his unique work. Click here to see the Kickstarter Campaign


Ben Wilson working on the Millenium Bridge

A selection of works on Chewing Gum by Ben Wilson

Chewing Gum art in the Turbine Hall in the Tate

Paint Jam takes over Rochdale Town Centre for the Uprising Festival

A paint jam created as part of the Rochdale Uprising festival saw an additional 12 artists visit the town. Organised by the Urban Artistry Gallery, this was a way for people to engage with live art at a more intimate level.

Paint Jams are opportunities for artists to get together. Sometimes organised, sometimes organic the premise is just about having fun, sharing ideas and having a paint. That’s what was happening in Rochdale. This was a chance for the public to see live street art with many taking the opportunity to speak to the artists and learn about their work.

Where to find the Banksy Mural in St Leonards

It’s not often you stumble across a Banksy especially one that’s been around for ages. But that’s exactly what happened over the weekend on the seafront at St Leonards.

Created in 2010 the piece was painted on the back of a concrete set of stairs leading down to the beach. It shows a small child in sunglasses building sandcastles each of which has the word ‘Tesco’ written on it.


The mural by Banksy in St Leonards was painted in 2010

Banksy and Ben Eine

By all accounts the artist was in the town for the 40th birthday of his friend Ben Eine. The two did at one point spend a lot of time together. Indeed Eine himself recently told our ‘Art Related Noise‘ podcast a little about what they would get up to whilst on their travels together. At one point he also had his studio in the area.

Eine had been creating a large portrait of Prince Charles at the same time the Banksy piece went up. A very different kind of work for him, the image of the younger prince was on the corner of Norman Road and pixellated. The work was a far cry from the typeface work he’s become known for nowadays. If your a fan of Eine’s shutter letters then you can still spot a number of those around the town.


Prince Charles by Ben Eine on Norman Road was painted in 2010. It is however no longer there. Photograph by Genny Marsh via Flickr

Tesco Sandcastles

But back to the piece by Banksy and its meaning. A number of inferences could be made. Most notably the whole Tescos being sandcastles with no firm foundations type of analogy. Who knows, the truth is it could have been just a bit of fun. Though in saying that, Banksy does have form with his penchant for poking fun at the supermarket giant. In 2008 his ‘Tesco Kids‘ mural on Essex Road in North London showed a group of kids hoisting a Tesco plastic bag up a flagpole. Standing with their hands to their hearts they looked up as if pledging allegiance to it.

In 2005 he created his Tesco value ‘Soup Can’ as a print in a ironic imagining of the famous Andy Warhol image. Then in 2011 he created the famous tesco value petrol bomb as a “commemorative souvenir poster“. This followed the riots in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol that year. It would seem that for whatever reason Banksy has, or at least had, a bit of a fixation on the supermarket.

 


Tesco Value Petrol Bomb by Banksy

 


Tesco Value Soup Can by Banky

 


Kids hoisting a Tesco flag by Banksy

The Banksy mural in St Leonards can be found next to the Marina car park on the back of some concrete steps leading to the beach. It is approximately opposite St Leonards parish church on Undercliff. The mural was visited on Saturday 17 August 2019. You can read more about street art in the Hastings and St Leonards area here and more about Banksy here. Those interested in the painted house by Dotmasters which is nearby can read about that here.


The Banksy on the beach in St Leonards

Tesco Sandcastles

The Banksy in St Leonards is next to the English Channel

An added treat at the side of the Banksy piece reveals this little gem from DS Arts

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