We speak to English artist Ben Wilson, the infamous chewing gum artist who has become known for his miniature masterpieces on discarded chewing gums across London. His extraordinary trail of miniature masterpieces extends from St Paul’s across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Gallery. Wilson also paints and sculpts. Find out more about the person behind the myth in our latest Interview.
(ISSA) -Introduce yourself to us, as if we had no idea who you were!
(Wilson) – I’m Ben Wilson – also known as the Chewing Gum Gum Man.
– Where does your (tag) Artist name come from?
The tag is the chewing gum image – it’s a recongnisable form because I’m transforming the chewing gum into art.
-How do you define yourself and why? Artist? Street artist? Something else?
– How did it all start for you, and what is it nowadays?
It started when I was three years old. I worked with clay and made my first pinch pot. It’s in my blood.
-What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Have tea and toast.
-Street art is mostly a visually stimulating form of art. To add one more sense to it, what music would you pick to accompany your art work?
I like all music.
-In all forms of art, inspiration is crucial. What inspires you and how does that end up in your art?
People. The image evolves out of the environment so it can have a social context. For example, people ask for dedications. The image evolves out of the environment rather than being imposed on the environment. Unlike advertising which has a direct agenda.
-What is the hardest part while working on a piece of art?
The weather conditions can be extreme – I work in all weathers. It can be very cold. I don’t like sleet. I can get very wet. And when I’ve been arrested it’s been difficult. Once in Piccadilly Circus it was raining, I had students filming then the police came along wanting to move me on. The police man tried to take the brush from my hand and it broke. I got another brush and continued. I refused to move on and I did manage to finish the painting. The policeman got back up and then the senior police man who came knew who I was and then it was fine.
-Do you have any artist(s) you admire? Can you pinpoint what it is that makes them so special for you?
I love lots of artists. I love human creativity – you see it in children, you see it in all people. I think the most important pictures are the ones in your subconscious.
-Which cities are the most inspiring for you as an artist?
I like the diversity of all of the cities I’ve worked in. I really enjoyed working beyond the Arctic Circle. That’s not a city though.
-What other passions do you have apart from art?
Gardening. My family.
-Do you have a special project that you hope to achieve some day?
I’ve built these big constructions. I’d like to create a sculptural project – a centre where people can interact with my work. Perhaps a sculptural garden – to have that possibility of working with people as well. I know about wood and construction, and to have workshops.
-Tell us a bit more about your art; does it include symbolisms, messages or repeated patterns? How has it evolved?
It evolves out of the environment – it’s always a process of exploring. I love exploring the environment through the miniature – a parallel world that exists if you know where to look. I love the power of colour.
– How long does your art work usually survive for?
Some pictures go back 10 years. It depends where they are. I often restore works so they can last for years. It’s a whole process of caring.
-What do you think, people feel or think of, when they see one of your works on the street?
It’s not for me to say.
-Is there a little wish you have that not many people know about?
-Is there a specific thought or message you would like to pass to our audience out there?
The main thing for me is for people to be able to explore their own creativity. Face your fears as much as you can.
Thank you Ben! It’s been great to get to know more about you as a person with such talent and inspiring works.
‘’I Support Street Art’’ team.
Check out Wilson’s art book