Aina Nergaard-Nemmick: Painting large shapes and vibrant colors

January 17, 2011
Lewes artist Aina Nergaard-Nammack shows her first painting of a still life she did as a 12-year-old in Seville, Spain. Today she displays her work in most local galleries as well as galleries in Washington, D.C., and New York City. NONE RON MACARTHUR PHOTO

Lewes artist Aina Nergaard-Nammack visits the beach or bay shoreline every day – winter and summer – as part of a ritual she started years ago. Her visits are not to gain inspiration for future paintings but because she loves the water.

That’s why she and her husband, John, moved to Lewes full time in 1997.

Aina is one of a growing list of new residents who bring an international flavor to the Cape Region. Born and raised in Spain, educated in Norway and Spain, Aina has also lived in Brazil, New York City and Washington, D.C. Although she calls Spain her home, because her father was of Norwegian ancestry, she was a citizen of Norway.

The one constant throughout her life has been art. It is in her bloodline; her mother and grandmother were both artists in Seville, Spain, where she grew up.

“Spain was old fashioned and it was not proper for a lady to paint when my grandmother was growing up,” she said. “The only thing she could do was copy the masters.”

Formally educated in art at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes in Spain, Aina says she was really self-taught and has never stopped learning.

Art became her passion, as she looked to break the traditional barriers of realistic landscape and portrait painting.

Aina calls her art nonrepresentational. She sees a scene, extracts pieces from it and then transforms it onto canvas. She paints with acrylics and deals in large shapes and vibrant colors, the two most important features of her work. She considers herself a colorist who works with abstract forms.

“While I paint, things happen as the work progresses.  I have a primary image in my mind which develops into the rest of the picture field,” she said. “I have to work actively on the field to abstract my comprehension of what I feel, and imagine forms and colors that will be in equilibrium on the canvas.”

Arranging the forms and colors on the pictorial field to achieve a balanced composition is her goal. On her canvases, she expresses the beauty of nature and our surroundings as opposed to copying it.

Almost all of her works are bits and pieces of actual locations she has visited and either photographed or stored in her mind. “But it never turns out exactly what I see,” she said.

Aina, who celebrated her 80th birthday with her four children in Seville last spring, is a hard worker who spends at least five hours each day in her spacious studio at the rear of her downtown Lewes home. She’s also prolific in her work with about 1,000 works completed over the past seven years. Half her work has been sold, mostly to art collectors in the Washington, D.C., area.

She displays her work in most local galleries as well as galleries in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Her studio has a bulletin board filled with blue and red ribbons from juried shows she has entered over the years. In addition, she had several one-woman shows that showcased her work during her long career.

“I’m considered very contemporary in this area but in areas like Washington there are many more artists out on the edge,” she said. “My following here is small, but it’s very good. I’m so happy to be in Lewes with so many avenues for art.”

Her work is categorized into series, which are like chapters of her life, including buildings, cathedrals, beach and landscapes, sky and sea and white village, one of her most popular series.

She founded the local Artists Exchange about a decade ago so local artists could get together to learn more about each other and critique each other’s work. “It helps because they might see something I have not seen,” she said.

Aina and her husband, John, whom she met and married while he was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Spain, have four grown children who all live in the Washington, D.C. area. It was John, a publishing executive, who brought Aina to the United States. They have been married 54 years.

Aina has always wanted to live near the ocean. While living in Washington, D.C., she pulled out a map and used her fingers to approximate the closest location to get to the water. “It happened to be the Lewes-Rehoboth Beach area,” she said.

It wasn’t long before she made the trip over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore to visit Lewes. On that weekend she looked at a few houses and ended up buying one.

It turned out to be a wise decision. Not only did she end up near the water, she found a place where her artwork was appreciated. “I really didn’t expect that,” she said.

View the artist’s work: