Ben Wilson has taken street art to extremes never seen before. Known as the bubblegum artist, he usually spends long hours lying down and painting the trampled and “fossilized” chewing gum on the sidewalks. With the patience of a minimalist, Wilson turns the patches on the floor into mosaics of furious colors where a Bengal tiger roars, where a smiling angel flies or where two doves kiss. He calls it “gum art“, a genre of his own with which he has become famous throughout the world without leaving London.
A decade ago we spent an entire morning with him bubblegum artist, seeing him in action in his Muswell Hill neighborhood, converted into something like a ground-level museum. From there he jumped to Shoreditch, the neighborhood par excellence of graffiti, until he finally found his habitat on Norman Foster’s Millennium Bridge, which connects St. Paul’s Cathedral with the Tate Modern.
Up to 600 small works also known as the Picasso of the Pavement They can be counted along the 325 meters of the wobbly bridge, which will close to the public on October 14 to undergo a facelift. Ben Wilson has shouted to the sky, afraid that his paintings will be erased with the replacement of the synthetic membrane and the renewal of the worn surface…
“I have been working on this bridge for more than ten years, turning what is literally trash into pieces of art. I would like people to be able to continue enjoying them because I know they are loved and admired.”
Ben Wilson is right: dozens of tourists who cross the bridge every day bend down to the pavement to immortalize their small, great works on their mobile phones. A double-decker bus, a black cab or a stray cat come incredibly alive under our feet in a canvas the size of a two euro coin. Sometimes they are simply phrases, declarations of love (“Will you marry me?“) or dedications that people ask for and with which they can make their art profitable.