Game Changer

4 July 2012 | 6:05 am | Jake Millar

Regurgitator’s Ben Ely has switched hats and is returning to Brisbane for the biggest solo exhibition of his art works, writes Jake Millar.

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Musicians dabbling in visual art is nothing new. The results – some good, some bad, others just plain ugly – are often more about ideas quickly hammered out between gigs than anything resembling a concerted effort. But for Regurgitator's Ben Ely, visual art is not just a lazy pastime, it's a dedicated creative occupation. Ely's latest show sees him return to his hometown of Brisbane for what will also be the biggest solo exhibition of his work. Although he's previously exhibited at several galleries around the country – including his first solo outing at the beginning of this year – this is Ely's first show in his hometown. “I've done three exhibitions in Melbourne and two in Sydney,” he says. “But I'd been looking to do an art show in Brisbane for quite some time.”

As the title suggests, Game Over is about games, with references to board and video games throughout the 25 pieces on display. “It's a few drawings and a couple of prints, but it's mainly painting on timber that I work on with sandpaper to give them a distressed look,” Ely explains of the work on display. “This has all been painted in the last month, so I've been working frantically to get enough stuff together for the show.”

Ely says although there are a couple of larger works, he prefers to keep most of his paintings on the smaller side. “I like come up with lots of different ideas and execute them fairly immediately,” he says. “So I try to make my stuff pretty quickly.”

Visual art has long been a passion for Ely and his work with Regurgitator has given him the chance to pursue his artistic interests over the years. “Being in a band is a good avenue to do a lot of different art,” Ely says. “I've designed t-shirts for our band as well as album covers over the years.” But for Ely, visual art is not just a side-project – it's just as creatively demanding as making music. “It's a similar creative process and when you're putting an art show together, it's almost as stressful and as much work as recording an album. It feels the same level of intensity,” he says. “But I find art harder because with music you can generally bounce ideas off other people and it's a little bit more social. A lot of the time, art can be quite isolated and I've really just been sitting in my house painting. It can start to feel like you're going a little bit crazy… Since I've been doing the art thing I haven't really made much music because I guess I've just switched on that visual side of my brain. From a creative point of view, it's a bit like wearing a different hat.”

But after this exhibition wraps up, Ely thinks it will probably be time to get himself back into the studio. “Regurgitator's planning to do a tour and I'm going to do a bit of recording as well,” Ely says of his plans for the future. “I've done two art shows this year, so I probably need to get back and do some music – and actually get out of the house and talk to someone.”

Game Over runs until Sunday 29 July, Lust For Life.