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“I wanted to re-capture the way I saw these toys as a kid,” the San Francisco-based Canadian artist told CBC. “As an adult, these things are just a piece of plastic to me now. As a boy, they were larger than life. They were magical. They were almost like sacred talismans.”
Burden spent 2,000 hours of studio time over a year and a half to create a spectacular oil painting called The 20th Century Space Opera. The 2.4-metre (8 feet) tall piece, completely done by hand, began with a detailed drawing of the canvas followed by an intense layering process called underpainting, followed by intricate patterning.
“I don’t have a workshop of people helping me make these things so it requires me to be in the studio 60 to 70 hours a week,” he said.
“Robert’s art is both beautifully painted and nostalgic. It awakens feelings in us who saw the original movies so long ago and sparks the imagination of newer fans,” said Steve Sansweet, chief executive of Rancho Obi-Wann, a California museum dedicated to Star Wars memorabilia that was responsible for displaying Burden’s painting at the convention.
The 20th Century Space Opera will also appear at the L.A. Art Show at the end of January.
The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has certainly bolstered the painting’s profile, but Burden said the timing of the project’s completion was coincidental. After all, he said, honouring the film is only part of the artwork’s purpose.
“Through irony, I can talk about commodity fetishism, I can talk about consumerism, materialism, Peter Pan syndrome. I can talk about idolatry. I can talk about all these things while still maintaining a love for the subject matter because it’s certainly toeing the line between fan art and fine art.”