A Series of Overwhelming Moments is the title of an exhibition opening at The Wooden Box Gallery in Ramsgate next month.
It will feature oil paintings by artist and musician Lupen Crook who moved to the town this year.
The Medway-born visual artist and songwriter who has a reputation for an ‘outsider mentality’ as well as a prolific creative output, says his work has undergone a transformative period of experimentation and self-interrogation since moving to Ramsgate with long-term partner and writer Willow Vincent.
The dad-of-one was among 16 artists selected this Summer to take part in Contemporary Art Academy, an initiative founded by artist and curator Zavier Ellis and artist and former Elephant Academy manager Mathew Gibson.
His work has also been shown at The Lido Stores Gallery / Hera Gallery in Cliftonville.
Lupen says the latest works aim to evoke a conversation with the viewer, interrogating the interchangeable roles of exhibitionist and voyeur.
Inspired by the creative methods of the early Surrealists, as well as psycho-sexuality and the occult, he mythologises and encodes his own memories and life experiences through primitive markings and symbols. Colour and shape are integral to the meaning of each piece.
Lupen, 40, lives with schizoaffective disorder. He was diagnosed in his late teens and has experienced hospital treatment and medication in his journey to manage the condition.
Schizoaffective disorder is described as a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania. Symptoms vary as do the length of episodes but the condition can be managed through self-care and treatment.
Lupen’s work sometimes reflects this although, he says, the process of painting is also therapeutic.
He said: “It’s something I’ve lived with my whole life, and will continue to live with, but slowly and surely, I’ve learnt through experience to manage the symptoms the best I can and avoid trigger points.
“Although I don’t always draw from it intentionally when making my work, it ultimately does impact my work as it has an unconscious effect on my experience of the world, how I see things, and how I interact with my surroundings.
“My painting technique is often about finding a sense of catharsis through channelling moments, both traumatic and euphoric, from my personal life, so in this sense, my experience of mental health informs this process. Also, I find painting quite therapeutic, so I think it helps me to centre my thoughts sometimes.”
Back in 2009 Lupen’s experience contributed to a decision to donate proceeds from an EP with bandmates The Murderbirds to the Young Minds mental health charity.
He said: “I have supported Young Minds, this was in part owing to becoming a father in 2005, and a particularly nasty episode I suffered in 2009. My 2009 EP, Curse Of The Mirror Wicked, centred on raising awareness with all monies donated to the charity.
“I think the most important service we can all provide to each other, young and old, is allowing people space to breathe, not judge so quickly, whilst also keeping the conversation open.
“Once communication breaks down, there’s a real issue. I think that’s what Young Minds offer, when all doors feel closed and all conversations shut down, it’s important to know there’s someone on the end of a line that will listen.”
Lupen says he and Willow have found a sense of community and creative energy in Ramsgate.
He said: “I was born in the Medway Towns and lived there for many years until moving to London. Ultimately, ten years spent traversing London prompted my move to Ramsgate.
“I love London, it’s in a constant state of change, but the upheaval meant I never felt settled. In early 2022, after a few visits to Thanet, myself and my partner felt an immediate connection, particularly to Ramsgate, and we have now made it our home.
“In Ramsgate there’s a real sense of community and an authentic creative energy. This part of the country feels extremely special, as it’s a place where human history and natural history collide in a very unique way.
“There’s also a brilliant sense of both isolation and connectedness, as you can often feel like you’re on the very edge of the land whilst also, on a clear day, you can see all the way across the Channel to France. It serves as a reminder of how we belong to something bigger.”
A Series of Overwhelming Moments runs from October 14-23 at The Wooden Box Gallery, 92 High Street, Ramsgate. A private view will take place on October 14 from 5pm-8pm.
Mon – Wed: Mixed opening times, check Facebook & Instagram for changes to opening times.
Thurs – Sat 10.30 am – 4pm
Sunday 11am – 4pm
Lupen Crook… Sounds like a shoplifting werewolf
His work looks amazing – and what a brilliant space to exhibit in. I have an artist friend in Wales with paranoid schizophrenia and she too has able to channel her creativity and the workings of her unique mind into her art over the past 30 years since she developed the condition. Brilliant to hear Lupen can use art therapeutically as well as being a talent in his own right.