WAKE // Art Installation: Text, 3 channel 4k video, original music, large format photographic prints (2015-2021)
by Richard Earl Leong Yu Ralya

Filmed in and around the Bosphorus in July 2015. Photographed in 2017. Music composed from 2018 to 2021. The three video channels carry the viewer through the three stages of life… Part I – Arrival (birth), Part II – Transit (life), and Part III – Departure (death).

Part I – Arrival

There are many that believe that the soul exists within an ocean of nothingness and everythingness… and is plucked from that ocean when it joins with our physical bodies. Whether you call it a soul, spirit, or energy. Whether you subscribe to religion, spirituality, or science. None can deny that there is a spirit that animates this flesh. A spirit that breathes life into the lifeless. A spirit that flows…
It must come from somewhere. 
To somewhere it must return.

Part II – Transit

Regardless of race, class, wealth, physical appearance, personality… every one of us struggles to traverse the distance from birth to death.  In this, we are all the same.
We journey both together and alone across the waters, creating and destroying relationships. Each of us disturbing the currents with our uniqueness, leaving behind a wake. 

Part III – Departure

We traverse this material world, and in the end, when life separates from the body and moves on, we all return to that same ocean of nothingness and everythingness from which we were plucked. 
It must come from somewhere.
To somewhere it must return.

‘WAKE’ began in the summer of 2015 as a series of videos I filmed during an Artist Residency in Istanbul, Turkey. At the beginning of that year, I had uprooted my life in Hawaii and moved halfway around the world to an unfamiliar setting with the intent of focusing completely on creativity and self expression rather than the pursuit of money. During this artist residency, I was continuing work on a series of abstract paintings titled ‘Slow and Long Infinitesimally’ when I decided to purchase a video camera and start recording some of the visual stimuli I was taking inspiration from around the city of Istanbul. A good portion of it was the waters of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara.

In my typical painting process, I have found that there is often a pivotal studio moment when I feel a flood of emotions which I would liken to the sensation of falling in love. It’s how I know I’m on the right track. One night, while lying in bed reviewing the day’s video footage, I was overwhelmed by this same telling flood of emotions. I had found a moment of pure self expression by capturing and abstracting an act of nature. I still remember that moment like it was yesterday. Watching one particular clip over and over again. Trying to imagine the body of work that would come out of it.

This series of work marks my first real exploration of self expression through video and music. An existential shift from two dimensions to four. Over the past six years these videos have continually driven me to teach myself how to manipulate video, process photos as well as to compose and create original music. It consumed me to the point where I actually stopped painting altogether. 

Painting had begun to feel formulaic. I struggled with the idea that I was only painting because I knew I could create something beautiful and desirable. I needed to challenge my motivations for making art and the way I was making it. If my motives were solely to impress people and sell paintings, purely feeding my ego, then the work was tainted and I couldn’t justify doing it. So I wouldn’t. 

It’s ironic that it wasn’t until I stopped painting for a few years that I fully understood why I paint. 

Honing in on the soul of this body of work has forced me to try and fully understand why I was so obsessively drawn to it in the first place. And in doing so, I found the driving force that has influenced my work from the beginning. I was finally able to articulate my motivation for making Art.

Next Project
Autumn Lane Commission