Thoughts & Insights

Of Stars and Humans

“The tie between star and human opens up true worlds” – OUBEY MINDKISS

We can thank the stars for the beginning of all forms of life, including our own, on our planet Earth. Or more precisely we can thank those stars which have died since the beginning of our universe several billion years ago and whose process of extinction released those chemical building blocks on which our life is built. This makes the tie connecting stars to people one of truly existential importance.

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Tycho Supernova Stellar post-mortem

And as soon as we begin to gain even an elementary understanding of the cosmic dimensions of the conditions underpinning our existence as human beings on this planet, these true worlds reveal themselves and open up to us. They’re not only true because by now we’ve accumulated a considerable body of scientific evidence showing that they exist. They’re true because they give us a new perspective on the cosmic metabolism of which we are a part. A perspective that extends much further than what we usually take as the meaning of life.

Just one of the many reasons why we are capable of knowing and understanding this in the first place is that cosmic evolution has surrounded our planet with a thin shell of atmosphere that doesn’t just protect us from the deadly part of the sun’s radiation. This atmosphere is also transparent and its transparency allows us an open view of the sky and the universe that surrounds us.


If the Earth were surrounded by clouds and vapor like its sister planet Venus either we wouldn’t exist or we wouldn’t be able to gaze into the star-filled night sky and would probably never hit on the idea of exploring the universe surrounding us. We wouldn’t even know that there was such a thing as a universe.

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Since time immemorial poets, writers and singers have each in their own way celebrated the thoughts and feelings that came to them when contemplating the star-studded night sky. Seven hundred years ago, ancestors like the Maori were guided by the movement of the constellations in the night sky on their journey in their legendary Waka canoes from the Polynesian islands over the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. And by following the stars, they reached their destination. What a deeply poetic relationship of love and trust we have developed with the stars – even when knowing nothing about science! What a strange sense of bliss whelms up in us when in the evening or night we look up and see the canopy of heaven spangled with stars hung over us! Yet if someone was to ask us why we were feeling so happy, we probably wouldn’t say, “Because of the unobstructed view of the night sky filled with stars.” And yet that is precisely what causes such emotion.


One thousand stars were what OUBEY wanted to paint as he announced in early 2004 without any premonition that this would be the last year of his life. Never before had he announced his intention to do something before doing it and up to then it was unthinkable that he would ever predict a specific number of paintings that he wanted to paint, let alone a number of such magnitude! It’s only when you understand the existential bond uniting stars and humans and know just how keenly OUBEY was aware of this connectedness and how well he understood its implications, that you can begin to see the grandiose, all embracing scale on which he conceived his StarPixels project – like a magnificent tribute to our “Star Brothers and Sisters”, as the Maori violinist Elena called them in her encounter with one of OUBEYs paintings.


That this project, interrupted by his untimely death, never reached its proclaimed goal of one thousand stars in no way diminishes its significance. Because, incomplete or not, it still leads us deep into the process of our own origins and creation. Perhaps this is why so many people are so strangely moved by OUBEYs Star Pixels. And perhaps this is also why we should soon take time and consider how in the process of publishing OUBEYs art we can give this part of OUBEYs work the space it needs where all the myriad elements contained in it can develop their full potential.


Image 1: The Tycho supernova remnant. This type of structure is all that remains after a massive star dies, releasing the chemical building blocks of life and planetary systems into space. Credit: NASA/CXC/Chinese Academy of Sciences/F. Lu et al.

Image 2: Astronomers have spotted a new object emerging from the ashes of a recently deceased star. The stellar post-mortem, which is recounted in two new videos, may also solve a mystery surrounding the unexpected shape of the star’s explosive remains, scientists say. Watch the video here:

Image 3: The Sun sizzles in high-energy X-rays captured by NuSTAR. Source: