What do you think of when you see a glob of chewing gum on the floor? Well, chances are, you either think nothing of it, or you think “Eurgh, that’s disgusting.” Remember though, if you’ve ever spit out your chewing gum onto the floor, you’re just as guilty as everyone else. But Mr. Ben Wilson, chewing gum artist extraordinaire, also known as a modern day Womble by many, takes what we think of as ugly – what we think of as waste – and turns it into something beautiful. Surprisingly so, in fact.
The Wombles mantra was “Making good use of the things that we find, things that everyday folks leave behind” and it’s actually a pretty good one. If you’re going to live your life by the mantra of some of television’s much-loved childhood heroes, it’s not a bad one to go by, after all.
Anyway, we digress! Ben Wilson does something with chewing gum that we don’t really think we’ve ever seen before. He uses tiny little paintbrushes and equally tiny pots of paint – with the dirty lump of old chewing gum his canvas – and creates very tiny but very lovely and extremely intricate pieces of art, brightening up dull and dank pavements into something that’s really rather lovely.
So just how does he do what he does? Well, for at least the last six years, Ben has been scouring the streets of London for his number one favourite art material – chewing gum. Once he finds a likely spot, he sets up shop – gets down on the floor, no blanket, nothing to protect him from the elements, and starts painting. His designs are largely dependent upon what he finds around him, or how he feels, or what he wants to represent that day. Some of his paintings are very simple and might include just a border of colour with a flower inside. Others are much more complex, like this scene that represents a typical London street.
We’re not really sure though if Ben’s work helps to discourage people from dropping gum on the floor – or whether they drop it a little more frequently to provide him with more canvasses to work on. It’s a bit of a catch 22, no? Well, of course it’s actually not a catch 22 but it’s definitely something to think about. Something that we can take away from Ben’s work is simply that we shouldn’t discount what looks like something ugly, or average, or everyday – something that most people wouldn’t think twice about as something beautiful or as something that could become beautiful with the right tools. Instead, we should embrace it.
Whether that’s what nature gives us, or the materials that we throw away everyday – things like chewing gum, old glass, newspapers or old aluminium cans. There’s plenty of things we can and should do with these old bits and pieces – whether the end result is something useful or simply something beautiful doesn’t really matter.