HOW many times have you visited a windswept wilderness and found yourself distracted by a crisp packet whisking by?
Or, and this is a much more difficult question to answer, how often have you walked around a beauty spot and not even noticed the litter there – because it has become part of our landscape?
A mystery artist from the Wrexham area has issued a challenge to art and wilderness-lovers alike to look again.
Known only as ‘ID’, the artist, whose previous work has been inspired by the North Wales landscape and has been exhibited in Mold and Chester, undertook a 1,000-mile journey to support the Keep Britain Tidy campaign.
Along the way, he showcase guerrilla art outside several of the UK’s biggest galleries.
He said: “According to Keep Britain Tidy, it costs council tax payers £885m a year to clean the streets of England. That's in England alone. It’s even more if you include Wales.
“It’s a phenomenal amount. We’re talking about cutting down on services but here’s somewhere we can save about £900m right off the bat, just by tidying up our crud.”
To preserve his cloak of anonymity, ID would only talk on the phone.
He explores the Snowdonia range and cliffs around Llangollen regularly and is audibly angry about the problem of littering.
“You see all these images of Wales and the UK – of beautiful mountains and sunsets and the sea – done by artists and photographers,” he said.
“And they all work really hard to exclude the litter. You see these idealised images but you never see the junk people leave behind."
In response, ID produced several large-scale oil paintings, using recycled plastic as a canvass as part of what he calls “the litterate project”.
He painted several scenes, including Llyn Padarn and the Llanberis Pass “decorated” by a can and crisp packet, Formby Beach complete with a fast-food bag, Kinder Scout in Derbyshire’s Peak District with wrappers, and Ingleborough and Whernside, two of the Yorkshire three peaks, complete with plastic bottles
ID said: “I’d been thinking about doing some protest art for a while but I didn’t know what to tackle. Then it struck me.
“Rubbish has become such a common sight that it’s actually become sort of invisible.
“When we look at a scene, we filter it out. I wanted to put it back in centre stage.”
Once the six images, measuring an average of four by six feet, were complete, they were loaded into a red van and then dropped outside key art galleries, including the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, the Tate Modern in London, the Tate Liverpool and the National Museum Cardiff.
He said: “It was three men in a little red van. It was more than a thousand miles in three days, with not much time for food or sleep.”
The venture had an element of risk. By leaving the images outside the galleries, ID and his crew were, effectively, littering. The team had to work quickly, picking a spot and depositing the painting before retreating to see what would happen.
ID said: “We got some interesting responses. Each image had information placed on it explaining why it was there and what it represented.
“Some reacted well. The Tate Liverpool took the painting in and put it in a pop up exhibition.
“Others just brought them in and stored them. We got people asking ‘Why do you want to leave it here?’ and I had to say ‘Well, it is a gallery, isn’t it?’
“The Lowry in Salford, on the other hand, was a bit different. Within a few moments of us dropping the piece off, one of the staff came out and ripped the information stickers off it, so no-one knew why it was there, which undermined the point a bit.”
Even without the info, ID hoped that people looking at the paintings would spot the litter and start to question why it was included in the image.
If it shouldn’t be in artwork, he argues, it shouldn't be in our countryside.
He said: “It’s just down to laziness. There’s no reason why people can't take their rubbish away with them or just bin it.
“I’ve challenged people in Wrexham when I’ve seen them drop litter and there’s this sense that it’s somebody else’s problem.
Although the guerrilla art drop didn’t go as hoped in places, the images shared around Twitter and Facebook have already had some impact, while gallery visitors who walked past the art when it was in situ shared their views.
ID said: “When I’ve spoken to members of the public who’ve seen the pictures, they’ve said ‘I didn't notice it before but I’m starting to see it now’.
“Some of the funniest comments were from conscientious dog walkers, who said ‘Are you going to do another one with a dog dirt in it because that really winds me up’.”
ID was pleased that the UK Government has decided to adopt the plastic carrier bag charge pioneered in Wales just under two years ago but is sceptical about whether it will be implemented.
He said: “There might be another election between then and now so who knows?
“But when you see something you don’t like, you want to do something about it. I’m hoping to auction the art off and send the proceeds to Keep Wales Tidy.”
To find out more, search ‘litterate’ on Facebook.