During my early research for my studio practice (part of my Master’s in Fine Art), I was collecting strong images from Western visual culture as had been my usual method of beginning work; I decided on a whim, to find some images of Rudolph Valentino, more specifically posing as ‘The Sheik’.  Prior to the research, I knew nothing about Rudolph Valentino other than his label as ‘The Sheik,’ a silent screen star who presented a sizzling allure to women in a very repressed bygone era, so sizzling that women fainted in cinema aisles.  I decided ‘to find out what all the fuss had been about …’  I was both open to discovery and yet sceptical in a rather amused way; the actors and films of the silent era were irrelevant to me and I had seen neither his films or photos.  I was utterly unprepared for the charismatic presence and acting ability that I found.

Whilst commencing research into Rudolph Valentino, my studio project began to take shape as a plan to paint my own series of twelve culturally influential figures; however, the individuals I chose were of biographical influence rather than general.  I narrowed down to six primary influences due to time constraints as I wished to investigate why these individuals influenced me, explore connections between them and generate a body of work around the research. Since Valentino was a new interest, I felt it would be useful to document how the research would unfold and affect my studio practice.

The biography, creative production and iconic visual imagery surrounding Rudolph Valentino has offered up rich yields for the visual artist.  The resulting body of work, in turn transmits that encounter and interpretation of Valentino in a way that can be grasped immediately or unfold with consideration.  These archival traces transcend time creating relationships between individuals, past and present, culture and culture.  Mining the archive enriches and enhances the intersubjective engagement.

The research challenged my usual methodology as a painter, leading away from intensely saturated primary and secondary palettes to small-scale monochromes and an unexpected move to the exploration of etching and locating exciting potential for the medium to act as a bridge between drawing and painting.

I have presented the research, art works, archives and lots of interesting links as a resource for anyone interested in art and Rudolph Valentino.