Richard Earl Leong Yu Ralya is a multidisciplinary artist currently living between Sicily and Hawaii. His works have been acquired for private collections in California, Hawaii, Istanbul, and Italy. Born in New York, raised in rural Northern Virginia, Richard moved to the West Coast to study engineering at the University of California, Berkeley where his first Art classes solidified his decision to pursue a degree in Art. After graduating with a BFA in Painting from the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute, Richard moved to Hawaii to be closer to family and develop his creative practice. 

In 2015 he left Hawaii behind and moved to Istanbul Turkey to refocus his life around creativity and the making of Art. For the next two years, he traveled extensively and was invited to attend artist residencies in both Istanbul and Sicily. It was during this time that he redefined his notion of “studio” and developed his ideas for achieving creative independence while also embarking on projects that would expand his work beyond 2D painting and drawing. In 2017, Richard became the Artistic Director for the Sicilian non-profit association Art Project Graniti and set about the business of achieving creative independence with a focus on intuitively pursuing artistic projects. He is currently splitting his time between LLMN Studio (a creative think-tank based in Hawaii), Relje International (high end custom leather designs) and a new venture creating a web application to help manage the home-care of his father who is living with late stage Parkinson’s Disease.   

Artist Statement

For as long as I can remember, one question has always gnawed at me:

‘What is your motivation for making art?’

Am I seeking personal validation or aiming to create an impactful body of work? In other words, when people view my creations, am I looking for recognition of my technical skills, cleverness, or profundity? Or, am I hoping to foster a connection that transcends critical thought?

Several years ago, I chose to set aside material ambitions and steer my life towards the pursuit of creativity independence. I had studied Fine Art in school but found myself working as a Creative Director for a marketing and web development firm. I realized that all my talent and efforts were being channeled into earning money, often for companies I felt no real affinity towards. I craved the freedom to follow my inspiration and engage in creative pursuits that held genuine value to me. So, I left my life in Hawaii behind, journeyed to Istanbul, and eventually found a new home in Sicily. This period offered ample time for introspection, leading me to an answer. I realized that what I truly wanted was the latter – I yearned to step aside and let viewers experience the same emotions I feel during the creative process.

There’s a certain moment during the act of creation that is truly indescribable. Sometimes, it strikes suddenly and alarms you, stopping you right in your tracks. Other times, it gradually creeps up until you realize it’s already there with you. But when everything aligns, there’s a moment where you feel an intense connection with your work. It’s a sensation of falling… an unbearable weightlessness akin to falling in love. It’s palpable, yet defies explanation; it’s terrifying yet beautiful. This feeling might have been what abstract expressionists like Pollock, Rothko, Tobey, Twombly, Mitchell, or Motherwell referred to as a ‘manifestation of the collective unconscious.’

My early figurative paintings—depictions of burning birdhouses and falling bodies—sought to encapsulate this sense of weightlessness. They achieved this by creating tension between beauty and horror, humor and severity, action and stillness. I used these juxtapositions to disorient the viewer, creating an opening for the artwork to permeate their subconscious.

Recently, my focus has pivoted towards the abstract, casting aside egotistical intentions of incorporating political or social commentaries. I’ve chosen not to feed into the escalating division and discord in the world. Instead, my work now aims to foster unity, using the duality of chaos and serenity to sow the seeds of oneness. This theme is evident in everything from the structured lines of the ‘Divine Contortion’ series to the abstract action paintings in the ‘Slow and Long Infinitesimally’ series. It also resonates in a project I’ve devoted the past eight years to, titled ‘WAKE’. This project, which centers around the fluidity of water, blends photos, videos, and musical compositions. This concept even extends to my most recent nature photo series, ‘The Divided Line’.

Regardless of the medium, my process attempts to scrape away the ego to find pure emotion that invokes a sense of our shared human experience. We are more alike than we are not alike. Every one of us is warmed by the same flame that dances within all life. The same spark that inspires matter to move, to multiply, to interact, to think, to speak, to dream and to wonder. When my work is successful, I feel connected to the forces that govern the universe. An infinitesimally small individual within an infinitely large whole.

Whether I’m employing finely tuned line-work, manipulating the spontaneous viscosity of paint or capturing a sublime moment on camera, my aim remains the same. Through the weightlessness of creativity and by aligning myself with nature’s fluidity, I’m trying to create order out of chaos. This process is both witnessed and imagined, found and formed. I aim to lay bare the filaments that connect the material and spiritual worlds. Illuminating the interactions between them. 

Making Art is how I connect to the world. It is my center. My work, above all else, should serve as a conduit for others to feel that connectivity as well. To experience the oneness we all share.