Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

London street gum artist tracked down by academics

Pavement gum artist Ben Wilson
Ben Wilson has worked on many streets and the Millennium Bridge

An artist from London who paints tiny pictures on discarded chewing gum has been put in touch with academics who sought to commission him for a project.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) hopes Ben Wilson will paint miniature depictions of each of the 118 known elements to promote conservation.

Mr Wilson spends up to three days at a time on London's pavements, illustrating gum where it has fallen.

BBC London 94.9 introduced him to RSC spokesman Brian Emsley in an interview.

Mr Wilson described the proposal as a "fascinating" idea but "quite a tall order".

"It would be a masterpiece in itself because each picture can take anything from two to three hours, to three days," he said.

'Unique' approach

Explaining why he undertook such painstaking work, he said it was "nice to paint art in a more spontaneous way".

"If you take something like the gum - which is everywhere, all over London - you can take that and hopefully make that into something more positive.

Gum picture
This chewing gum picture was on a traffic island at Piccadilly

"You're transforming an old bit of spit-out gum and making it into a work of art."

Mr Wilson was spotted by an RSC member in central London last week, painting on some hardened gum close to the organisation's headquarters in Piccadilly.

Mr Emsley said the society "admired his work", calling it "unique".

He admitted it may be prohibitively expensive to commission Mr Wilson for all 118 pieces, and "costs would be an issue to consider".

"There are 118 elements, so there is a cost implication, and having seen him work on the street, he's very painstaking and does take a long time to make each one of these remarkable pictures."

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25 Mar 10 |  London

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