Nina Pryde was born on the day when Hong Kong was liberated from Japan’s occupation. Surviving in Hong Kong during the post war years was a constant struggle for her and her family. She grew up in a poor family with eight other siblings and at an early age was forced to leave school to work to help support the family.
As Nina grew up and even while working she became very interested in drawing and studied fashion design.
In 1967 Nina married the New Zealand entrepreneur Neil Pryde, and through the 1970’s faced the challenge of bringing up her own family, but as the children grew up and she had more free time Nina returned to the creative arts, first taking up pottery. Problems with her hands forced Nina to give up pottery and she started to paint, initially studying with private tutors. Nina joined the School of Continuing and Professional Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and in 2004 obtained a Diploma in Fine Arts. Nina then went on to study Chinese Ink Painting at the Hong Kong Chingying Institute of Visual Arts with renowned artist Wucius Wong.
Not satisfied with her progress, Nina joined a Masters course in fine arts jointly run by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the Hong Kong School of Art from which she graduated in 2007 with the Outstanding Student Award for her work, “The Sound of Silence”. After graduation Nina continued to study with Wucius Wong and under his mentoring she further developed her own style and technique.
Nina excels at painting abstract landscapes using Chinese ink to create three-dimensional images. Her work is marked by a conscious blending of Chinese and Western values with traditional and modern cultures.
In recent years, Nina has refined her techniques with the use of powerful skilled brushstrokes and the imaginative use of collage and calligraphy, and created a new and exciting approach to Chinese ink painting.
Nina now works from the Pryde Studio in Fotan, Hong Kong where she has created a large body of work which has been widely exhibited.
While Nina employs the traditional ink and brush skills of Chinese Ink Painting, her work today could be described as 21st Century Modernism. Nina’s art has been strongly influenced by the Western Impressionists and Abstract genre.
While Nina has mostly painted landscapes, her scenes have not followed the traditional themes of Classical Chinese Ink painters and many of her works incorporate modern city scenes and structures with people merged into a relatively conventional treatment of the surrounding landscape. Nina has not confined herself to any particular subject, but she has mastered the skills and techniques to create in her works a vivid impression of the scene she has in her mind which is instantly recognizable to the viewer.
Nina’s style maybe Abstract but the blending of the different techniques she has developed in her works provides striking realism, particularly in the use of collage to underline important themes.
It is interesting that in Nina’s art, space can be split, distorted and then rejoined; the past, the present and even the future can come together and appear at the same time. Nina’s world is therefore ambiguous in terms of both space and time.
Nina Pryde is indeed a Modern Ink Painter.
Nina’s work is built around a skeletal frame of bold brush strokes using the large Chinese brush with heavy black ink. This powerful framework has a strong emotional impact and grasps the attention of even the most casual viewer.
Since 2007, Nina has developed a passion for creating collages out of photos taken while traveling around China and elsewhere and in her recent work, she has also added ancient Chinese calligraphy into her creations; sometimes on cliffs, sometimes between the trees and sometimes amongst the clouds. She finds that the beautiful, vintage strokes create a mysterious combination which is in harmony with the lines and ink stains: “Sometimes when I am alone looking at these paintings, I can hear the legends behind these words from ancient times, echoing in my ears.”
Nina paints expansively as she pleases on paper and canvas, with a haphazard rhythm of colour and this made her realize that the physical tools are not important and it is the spiritual and emotional concepts that matter, keeping you on track so you do not drift away from tradition.
Water and ink are amorphous when they are separate; they become the most wonderful plaything in the world when they are joined.
Ink comes alive with water and water comes alive with ink. They fall in love on the paper flowing and penetrating, illustrating all sorts of beautiful scenes. The coupling of ink and water is rich with mystery and realism, the moving and the still, the black and the white, the thick and the thin, and the light and the heavy. The flow of water and ink are eternal through the mastery of the brush stroke.
For thousands of years, ink, water, paper and the brushstroke have not changed and it is through these elements that we create a world of ink and water.
Nina’s work has very strong emotional intensity that has the power to bring the viewer face to face with their own past and cultural background in a very personal way and in fact, her art could be said to operate in three dimensions: the two dimensions of form plus a strong emotional dimension that comes through her work.
Nina once said: “I really believe that my landscapes offer a meaningful portrayal of life as we live it but linked to the past through historical images that touch all of us in our daily life. Sometimes these images stir powerful emotions that can bring me to tears.”
The landscapes are filled out with muted colors and collages created from Nina’s personal photography collection put together from extensive travels in many parts of the world, particularly in China. The images portrayed are both real and illusory and have the power to bring to life memories and emotions that viewers can relate to from their own life experiences. Chinese calligraphy places the work in context and in Chinese culture.
Nina Pryde talks about the important influence that the Hong Kong Master Wucius Wong has had on her career.
“Wucius Wong introduced me to the concept of the flow of vitality (qi) and how to make use of it to integrate ink and colours on the painting. Wong taught me how to compose a painting with bold but refined brush strokes and always stressed that I had to be attentive to details. With his expert demonstration and explanation, I quickly gained a grasp of the basic techniques.”
Nina recounts Wucius Wong’s repeated advice: “You must know what you are doing and what you can do,” and to “wield the brush boldly and make finishing touches with care”.
Nina continued, “during my nine years of study with Mr Wong, I created a lot of landscape paintings, some of which are collaged with my travel photos. I am obsessed with taking travel photos to capture different cultures, buildings, ethnic costumes, mountains, and capturing the moment. With the addition of collaged photos selected from my personal collection, I hope to inject a sense of freshness and realism into my works, making them look attractive to viewers as well as connecting them with the viewer emotionally.
With the encouragement of Wucius Wong I made collage one of the unique features of my art.
In traditional Chinese culture, qi is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as “natural energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow”. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of “qi” is “breath”, “air”, or “gas”.
Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures, for example, prana in the Hindu religion, pneuma in ancient Greece, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, ruah in Hebrew culture, and vital energy in Western philosophy. Some elements of qi can be understood in the term energy when used by writers and practitioners of various esoteric forms of spirituality and alternative medicine. Elements of the qi concept can also be found in Western popular culture, for example “The Force” in Star Wars. Notions in the West of energeia, élan vital, or “vitalism” are purported to be similar.