curated by Meryl Ryan
27 September – 15 October 2017
Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery

Art | Layers of meaning between pages


Ahn Wells, in a surprising new trajectory, makes an autobiographical paper quilt, a patchwork of scraps from diaries and notebooks on one side with fragments of untranslated Korean text from a childhood book on the reverse.

Artist Statement 

Memoir 1
and Memoir 2 are the most personal works made by the artist to date. Based on the artists own life and these patchwork quilts have been sewn together by hand over a period of 6 months in an almost cathartic experience. The works explore the duality of growing up Asian in Australia.

Memoir 1 is made from the photocopied paper of a Korea-Australian Cinderella book that was read to the artist as a child. The book included both Korean and English text with Korea-style picture illustrations. Memoir 1 is constructed using a traditional patchwork pattern and tracing paper to symbolise the transparent relationship the artist had with her adoptive mother growing up Asian with in an English/Australian family home.

(regular/transparent and ordered – always felt protected and cared for)

Memoir 2 almost acts as the counter story to Memoir 1. This patchwork quilt is made from the random pages ripped from the artist’s personal diaries, written during 2010 – 2016. They have been folded and sewn together by hand to form a quilt to match Memoir 1. The pattern is taken from the traditional Korean Pojagi patchwork. Melding together the artist’s personal experience of growing up in Australia as a Koran adoptee.

Curator comments in Book Club catalogue 

Another personally significant cultural story emerges in Ahn Wells’ Memoir 1 and Memoir 2, her most autobiographical works to date. Slow to make, like much of Wells’ work, these paper ‘quilts’ represent a cathartic reflection on growing up Asian in Australia with an English/Australian adoptive family.[i] Both are constructed from the pages of books. Memoir 1 is made from copied pages of a Korean-English Cinderella story (with bilingual text and Korean-style illustrations), read to the artist as a child to sustain some cultural continuity with her birthplace. Symbolically translucent, the pages conform to an English patchwork pattern in a deliberate strategy to suggest Wells’ adoptive mother’s influence. In counterpoint to this, the second work is created from actual pages torn at random from the artist’s personal diaries. These pages, folded and also sewn together by hand, form another equi-sized quilt to partner the first. The pattern for this piece derives from the Korean Pojagi patchwork tradition. Together these quiet, intimate and confessional works reinforce the evocative power of books in our personal histories.

[i] Wells, Ahn 2017. From a statement to the curator.