Celestial art heralds comet’s arrival

The Oxford Times: Artist Mark James with his pop up art exhibition Artist Mark James with his pop up art exhibition

ARTISTS threw an exhibition that was out of this world to celebrate the passing of one of the most spectacular sights in the night sky for a generation.

The ninth floor of Oxford’s Seacourt Tower was transformed as the 4.5-billion-year-old comet Ison hurtled past earth at 143,000mph.

Local artists held a two-day astral exhibition last Thursday and Friday as the 2km wide ball of ice and dust raced across the night sky before it disappeard behind the sun.

The show celebrated the perihelion of the Comet Ison – the moment at which is was closest to the sun – on Thursday at 6.21pm.

The pop-up exhibition was also about giving thanks for all life on earth.

East Oxford artist Mark James said: “Currently there is a theory that life on earth and elsewhere in the cosmos could be enabled by comets bringing ice to the planet.”

Mr James, 48, uses painting, sculpture and “assemblages” to explore the idea of life on other planets. One of them was an alien made out of a radio, a linen bin, two video cassettes and a hat. Visual artist Frieda Van de Poll and painter Merlin Porter also exhibited sculpture and paintings.

Ison was later declared a dead comet by the European Space Agency, burnt up by its 1.2million km proximity to the sun, enduring temperatures of 2,000c. However, experts later revealed a small nucleus may have remained intact, as debris was spotted by stargazers tracking the comet.

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