Bao Lede was part of the daring 1985 New Wave art movement in China, in which artists began expressing themselves in avant-garde style, challenging eons of tradition in Chinese art. One of Lede’s collages, Sun Flower, was included in the prestigious China avant-garde exhibition held in Beijing in 1989.
Lede had visited the Cape several times after he moved to New York City from China, and encountered nature here in a way he hadn’t before. “I was fascinated by the beauty of Cape nature,” he says. “At the time, I had an idea, that it’s an ideal place for living and painting.” So he and his wife, writer Dian Tong—whom he met during the 1980s Chinese art movement— came here to live in 1992. Shortly thereafter they opened Tao Water Gallery in West Barnstable and Provincetown. Lede felt the connection with the outside world strengthen, and his art changed accordingly.
“Cape Cod is a very unique nature resource,” Lede says. “Details vary: everything changes. Sometimes Cape Cod is peaceful; sometimes you can see the wild. It touches me.”
Lede’s abstract expressionist art is powerfully dynamic. His figurative work and landscapes, in bold, brilliant colors, flow across the canvas—and sometimes on rice paper collage—with a Zen-like meditative quality. In the earthy, active figurative work, Boxer, there are clear vestiges of Chinese calligraphy. “I’m standing in the line between Eastern and Western inspiration,” Lede says.
The influence of his Chinese heritage and training are clear, in both his figures and landscapes. The body, Lede says, is also a natural landscape, so our physical environment and the human form have more in common than some might think. “You’re painting not only the outside landscape, but also your inside world, your spirit,” he says. “How you paint is the way to show your spirit.”
The female figure in Green Tea, juxtaposed with two folding chairs, has the same flowing vertical lines as his landscapes Sandy Neck Beach: Snow-Day Time and Farewell at Pilgrim Lake I. The thoughtful use of black in his paintings is a signature touch. “It is my style,” he says. “I use black for my force.”
While his focus is on composition and brushwork, Lede’s main tool, he says, is unblocking chi, or energy. “It’s kind of a dynamic force,” he says. “I paint the way I feel. I feel the power, the force; then I try to unblock it, to free myself.”
Bao Lede’s art may be seen at both locations of Tao Water Art Gallery: 1989 Route 6A, Barnstable and 352 Commercial Street, Provincetown (taowatergallery.com). His abstract, Sandy Neck Beach: Snow-Day Time, will be displayed at Barnstable Municipal Airport throughout 2012.