For the collaboration, The Chewing Gum Man went on a four-day tour across London, in areas including East Barnett, Hackney, Muswell Hill and the Millennium Bridge, to create a mini gallery, making works that referenced his own past as well as the life experiences and concerns of those close to him.
The Chewing Gum Man works in a consciously spontaneous way, allowing each artwork to evolve from its place and its time. In a visual world dominated by the mercenary imagery of advertising, Ben’s generous jewel-like chewing gum pictures are easily overlooked. They’re there to be discovered by those who are aware of their surroundings, or who just notice them by chance. They have amazed and delighted pedestrians since he began creating them in 2004.
Day one saw The Chewing Gum Man return to his childhood stomping ground in East Barnet. He set up shop next to the local war memorial which stands amidst a splendid crescent of African marigolds. Wilson painted a lush little homage to these plants.
The second painting The Chewing Gum Man made on this site was a more personal homage to his great uncle Frank who died in the Battle of the Somme. With a glowing border of sky blue, red, green and gold, it’s an exquisite and moving sepia portrait of a young man whose life was tragically cut short by war. The painting conjures another era and reminds us that, in William Faulkner’s words, the past is never dead it’s not even past.
Day two involved a visit to the Kingsmead Estate in Hackney. This is where The Chewing Gum Man’s friend Charmaine grew up in the 1970s and 80s. His tiny circular tribute to her and the area is a captivating rendition of the actual flat Charmaine grew up in. The Kingsmead painting celebrates a childhood spent playing outdoors and a time of simple joys and pleasures.
Day three saw The Chewing Gum Man at Muswell Hill Broadway where he met Liran, Kosta and her newborn child at the bus stop. They asked the artist to make a painting for them along the old railway line. and to possibly feature rainbow colours, the baby, a train (Larin has a train tattooed on her upper arm) and their dog Bublik.
Day Four saw The Chewing Gum Man pay a visit to his popular spot, the Millennium Bridge. For the collaboration he took spontaneous passersby requests from children to couples getting married, adding to his ever-growing miniature gallery on the bridge.
Photo credit The BUILDHOLLYWOOD family