Boris Johnson has called it “an unsightly stain on our beautiful city”. But where chewing gum is concerned it seems that one man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure.
For the past 9 years, artist Ben Wilson has been brightening up London’s streets by painting squashed pieces of discarded chewing gum with bright acrylic paints. His creations include a range of images from cups of tea and alien invasions, to personalised pieces he is commissioned to produce.
In total Wilson has proudly transformed over 8,000 of the grey-white blobs that litter our pavements, with any one piece taking up to 2 days to fully complete. Initially starting near his home in Muswell Hill, North London, his mini masterpieces can now be found across the UK and in parts of Europe.
Last weekend, a photographic exhibition of Wilson’s work was hosted at Trinity Buoy Wharf, London. Once arriving at East India DLR station, visitors followed the brightly coloured chewing gum trail all the way to the exhibition, like some kind of weird Juicy Fruit treasure hunt.
Wilson’s work is a creative response to the carelessness of waste disposal on our planet today. At any one time over 300,000 individual pieces can be found on London’s Oxford Street; the annual cost of London’s chewing gum clean up is estimated at around £10 million; and each piece can take up to five years to degrade.
Reactions to Wilson’s art have been mixed to say the least - he was once arrested on suspicion of criminal damage only to be released after dozens of supportive letters came flooding in.
Personally, we rather like them. They inject a bit of life into otherwise dull and grey pavements around the capital. Rather him than us though - we don’t have the steady hand or near as strong a stomach.