September 2022

Wax and Wane…Ebb and Flow
An exhibit held in July, 2022 at Galatea Fine Art in Boston, MA


Deniz Ozan-George

Wax and Wane...Ebb and Flow | Deniz Ozan-George | Scene4 Magazine | September 2022 | www.scene4.com


We say that the moon waxes and wanes on a monthly cycle and that the ocean tides ebb and flow two times each day, but nothing on the earth, whether geological or biological, is exempt from the forces of expansion and contraction, the waxing and waning of gravitational forces, and the constant ebbing and flowing of erosive water. This exhibit was inspired by the cycles that rule change in the natural world, and our perceptions of time and impermanence.

Looking up at the moon, I see both the familiar and the unexpected. The moon is in the realm of mystery and magic. I can sometimes read a face in those dark dry areas, ironically called "seas." Factually, I know that Luna, the earth's nearest celestial neighbor, is a satellite so large as to be almost a sister planet rather than a mere moon. I know about the moon's stabilizing effect on the earth's rotation, vital to sustaining life, and I know that the relative position of the moon drives the oceans' tides. I know that many creatures live, proliferate, and die by the moon's reflected sunlight in her varied phases. These are facts I know, and yet I intuit that we are all subject to her unfathomable moods, her silent and ever-present (though often unseen) observation of all things nocturnal. As the knower of secrets, might she not also contribute to the madness named for her— Lunacy—to which artists and other visionaries are so often subject?

In creating these paintings, I have tried to penetrate the moon's impassive stare, to commune with her mystery and partake of her magic through imagining how various terrestrial and aquatic creatures might respond to her changing light and energy throughout her cycles. This eternal return, exemplified by the rhythm of the moon's phases, has led me to a deeper reflection on the interweaving phases of life and death, the creation, destruction, and recreation of all things, and how these cycles are never ending…like a ring, as round as the moon herself.


Selections from Wax and Wane…Ebb and Flow


The Convocation (Nihonga). Imagine that crabs of every species gather on special occasions to greet and entreat their mother, the Moon. She looks on, bemused, as her children jostle for positions of favor, without concern for who they may be about to crush.


Grasshopper Mouse vs. Scorpion (Nihonga). Doing research on scorpions I found their most unlikely nemesis: the Grasshopper Mouse, North America's only carnivorous mouse. Here we see a triumphant Grasshopper Mouse howling at the moon (really true) after decimating a scorpion, whose remains we see in a nearby pile. The mouse is immune to scorpion venom, and another scorpion cowers under some prickly pears, fearful of a fate like his brother's.


Tide Pool 1 (Nihonga). A temperate tidepool at ebbtide.
Soon all will be revealed.


Sea Serpent (Nihonga). Picture a mother sea serpent taking a leisurely swim at dawn, accompanied by a rather rebellious child sea serpent. Many underwater creatures made sure to be seen and uncovered by the artist!


Waterfall (Nihonga). An interpretation of a classic Sumi painting subject, but with more turbulence and more whitewater.


Octopus Garden (Nihonga). An octopus cultivates her coral reef garden under the moonlit surface, in hope of attracting an unwary fish. Triumphant at last! This time her anemones will get the crumbs.


Luna Moth (Nihonga). This Luna Moth has recently emerged from her cocoon and is still drying her wings. She clings to a hydrangea in the bottom of the garden, where a slug eats moss growing on a discarded
bottle, as other garden creatures go about their business.


Water Lilies (Nihonga). Let many flowers bloom. All are connected. Sparkly!


Luna Moth Rendezvous (Teppachi). Luna Moths spend most of their time in the larval stage when they fatten up for the metamorphosis to
come. They have no way to eat and once they emerge from their cocoon they have about one week to meet Mr. Right. After a night of romance, the female lays her eggs and dies. The male then searches for another female until his reserves are gone as well.


Rush to the Sea (Nihonga). Instinct drives the leatherback sea turtle hatchlings toward the light and the sea. One baby turtle pauses to survey the scene before (we hope) continuing the headlong rush with her siblings toward the relative safety of the surf. Why does she hesitate? Keep going!


Moon Flowers (Encaustic). Imagine a pond so filled with flowers that the pond itself becomes invisible.


Waves 1 and 3 from a series of 4 (Encaustic). Hokusai was an inspiration for this series, but these small waves will not create a tsunami..


Materials and Methods
For the majority of these paintings, I have used a Japanese Nihonga -inspired water media technique which is based on Rinpo, a 17th century decorative painting style which focused on finding and portraying the essential nature of the natural world. Nihonga itself was a Meji-period revival and was a reaction to the rapid proliferation of western painting techniques and styles in the early 20th century. Interestingly, at about the same time, western artists, notably Redon and the Nabis as well as a number of early expressionists were inspired by Japanese art and experimented with Nihonga/distemper painting techniques, most often in Japanese-themed works.

Today, many contemporary Japanese artists are painting Nihonga, in both traditional true-to-nature styles as well as more personal and abstract styles. To say that something is Nihonga currently is to categorize it more by the materials and techniques employed than by the subject matter or the artist's personal style. Due to the unique properties of the materials used, to develop real competence in the technique requires deep study under the guidance of a master, so what you see here are really only Nihonga-inspired works in my own style. 

The materials essential to painting Nihonga are natural mineral pigments of various particle sizes, which are mixed individually with water and an animal glue binder (also called distemper). The paint is applied in layers on a wooden panel that has been covered with a strong paper. The animal glue is a strong enough binder to hold even coarse particles in place, so that the finished pieces are quite textured and also reflect the facets of the many tiny crystals that comprise the semi-precious pigments. I have commonly used lapis lazuli, azurite, malachite, and cinnabar in these paintings. The particles remain separate but create a unique sort of visual mixing.

For several pieces I used Teppachi, a type of Japanese watercolor related to Nihonga, which also uses animal glue in addition to acacia gum binder, but with very finely ground pigments, similar to gouache, but more translucent than gouache and yet much more heavy bodied than western watercolors.

The rest of the pieces chosen for this show consist of an ink painting on paper mounted on panel, oil on panel, and the balance of the works were done in encaustic painted on panel, and utilizing my own personal shellac burn technique.


Cover image: Tide Pool 2: Decorator Crab
Steals Fish from Anemone
An anemone has captured a fish but the decorator crab would
 like it for his own dinner, and a brutal fight ensues. Who will prevail?



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Deniz Ozan-George | Scene4 Magazine

Deniz Ozan-George lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a member of Galatea Fine Arts, Inc., a cooperative gallery in Boston's SOWA Arts District, and is currently an at-large board member. She has worked extensively in encaustic wax and a variety of water-based media; most recently experimenting with Japanese Nihonga-inspired work.

©2022 Deniz Ozan-George
©2022 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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