foroneweekonly was proud to present as its inaugural show an exhibition of paintings by artist Ben Wilson - for one week only!
Never seen before, the remaining 31 works from Ben’s ‘Black and White’ series were available for sale from 37 Duke Street, St James’s. This unique series was painted in 2004 before Ben became renowned as ‘The Chewing Gum Man’; his miniature paintings on discarded chewing gum brighten the pavements from north London down to the city centre's Millennium Bridge.
All the works in this exhibition were painted over an intensely productive 12 month period in a Muswell Hill coffee shop where many locals recall Ben concentrating intently on these minutely detailed works. The paintings show a strong narrative emphasized by their lack of colour and reflect Ben's concerns over our social landscape and of the alienation that can be felt in our own environment. Often, a semblance of a cityscape is evident with pathways directing the viewer sideways through the scroll-like picture encountering along the way depictions of man and nature and issues of freedom and confinement. This subject matter was influenced by Ben's experiences during a trip to Finland where he had lived and sculpted in the country's beautiful natural landscape and witnessed its co-existence with the more brutal, commercial industry of fox breeding. Together, Ben's Nordic exposure, sculptural background and concerns about our surroundings have culminated in this dramatic and thought provoking 'black and white' series.
On completing this exciting body of work Ben moved to the pavement and started working with chewing gum. He paints directly on to the blackened gum that blights all of our streets and by painting on litter already marking public property he can by-pass legal restrictions while subtly creating a new and unexpected artistic environment. The originals were black and white and related to the works in this exhibition, but soon gave way to vivid colours as people began stopping and talking to this friendly artist, sharing their life stories, memories and wishes and requesting their own paintings. Their interaction quickly became part of Ben's art and now, five years later, has resulted in many hundreds of these colourful paintings documenting a brand new social landscape.
This exhibition aims to add to Ben's ongoing success with his work on the streets and his sculptures which are included in collections such as the Museum of Contemporary Folk Art, Kaustinen in Finland, the American Visionary Art Museum in the US and the Kinley-Musgrave Collection at the Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. He has also been the focus of several short films, articles and is represented in many seminal books on Outsider art.
Ben has never sought commercial success so this exhibition gave a rare opportunity for a wider audience to view his work. Visitors looking closely were even be able to spot a new jewel-like gum painting near the gallery on Duke Street.