If Ben Wilson’s celebrated chewing gum paintings are quintessentially public art – accessible, outward-facing, responsive, colourful; seen and enjoyed by countless thousands of people – the five hundred or so small monochrome tiles that Ben has painted over the past six or seven years are exactly the reverse. Taken together (and mostly seen here for the first time) they constitute a private and very personal diary, an emotional and artistic response to the losses and gains, anxieties and joys Ben experienced during that time.
The images on the tiles, rendered with the same painstaking precision as the chewing gum paintings (and using a similar technique), are symbolic and oblique; many are dreamlike and surreal; some are darkly disturbing. Ben didn’t plan it this way. He bought his first pack of tiles to paint in March 2014, with the intention of placing them, surreptitiously, in public spaces on the London Underground. These tiny, rogue, gratuitous artworks were intended to subvert and comment on the strident advertising images that surrounded them, and delight and puzzle those passers-by who had the eyes to see them. And indeed Ben has placed over a hundred tiles in the tube, though most are carefully painted duplicates of tiles he’s retained. So Ben’s unique visual journal remains intact, and will continue into the future.