Lovely guy, great concept and style, lovely venue. This should be a quality exhibit, me thinks.
Regurgitator’s Ben Ely tells Anna Angel making art gives his ears a break, but just might drive him bonkers.
Most of us start the day with coffee or a shower to perk us up before work. Musician and artist Ben Ely finds himself in the freezing art studio out the back of his Melbourne home before he’s even fully lucid. Ely, best known for his musical projects like Pangaea and Brisbane-born alt-rock mainstay Regurgitator, says that’s when he does his best work. It’s not hard to imagine his paintings as inspired by a dream state, given the bizarre touches he lends even to his bands’ cover art. For his latest exhibition at Fortitude Valley’s Lust for Life, Ely says he’s been painting a life-long obsession: games – both of the computer and board variety.
“The first time I ever saw a Space Invaders machine was in a caravan park in Yamba, and it blew me away that you could move the joystick and the little alien and spaceship would move,” he says.
While there's an identifiable sense of ‘80s nostalgia in the pick of video games inspiring Ely’s new collection (he likes the simplicity of their design and soundtracks) his taste in board games ranges from wacky 18th century creations to strategy classic Risk. That being said, Ely's inspiration to create his own playable art has spurred by more than just Pacman and dice.
“I had a break up last year, and ‘Game Over!’ is kind of the idea of that as well, how people play games in love and life,” he says.
The only parallel Ely draws between his art and music is a bent toward nostalgia in both, but he says if his paintings were songs they’d be pretty catchy.
“My art’s pretty low brow; it’s quick and immediate and that’s how I like it,” he says. “Kind of like a pop song you know; short and cheap.”
After spending many hours alone in his studio preparing for the show, Ely says he’s beginning to understand how artists are driven mad.
“When our band would be touring all the time I’d say, ‘When I’m older I just want to be alone and paint’, and now that I’m older and I’m alone and painting all the time I’m kind of going, ‘I can’t wait to tour’ because I’d like to actually see somebody and have some sort of social interaction,” he says.
He admits the solitary life isn’t all bad.
“It gives my ears a rest to paint,” Ely says, “I love being creative without a lot of noise and beer”.
Ely will be exhibiting alongside friend and tattoo artist, Brian Graydon. The pair met in primary school, where Graydon nipped future musical atrocities in the bud.
“I was listening to this awful music and he had a lot better taste than I did and introduced me to bands like Devo and Bad Brains; just really interesting music,” Ely says.
They worked together on t-shirts, posters and comics before their separate careers took over.
“Brian has always been a big part of my creative life, and it’s really nice that we can work together again even though we haven’t done that for about twenty years or so,” Ely says.
Ben Ely’s ‘Game Over!’ and Brian Graydon’s ‘Hateful But Shy’ exhibit at Lust for Life, Fortitude Valley from Thursday July 5 to July 29.