Metamorphosis is the first solo exhibition in Greater China by the American photographer James Welling, which provides an overview of Welling’s forty-year career in photography, with key series from the 1980s to the present that highlights his ongoing exploration of abstraction, figuration, colour, and process.
The artist’s first major work was Aluminum Foil (1980-1981), which was composed of black and white close-up shots of crumpled aluminum foil. This early work marked a breakthrough with traditional media concepts by shifting attention to constructing images for cameras rather than finding them in the world. The aluminum foil was initially abstract, but upon further examination, other readings appeared: starry sky, rippled water, leaves in summer, geological formations. This behavior of walking a tightrope makes work hover between abstraction and representation, becoming one of the hallmarks of Welling’s practice.
Welling started using colour for Flowers in 2004, a series of photographs (photos without camera) he created before 2017. The first batch of flowers were made in a colour dark room by spreading a layer of bright gel on the black and white negatives of the flowers to create fields with irregular colors. In 2014, Welling started using Photoshop’s red, green and blue channels to process flower images on a computer. The works are becoming more and more psychedelic, and the several “flowers” examples in the exhibition are one of his most vivid and energetic works.