Phaptawan Suwannakudt

Phaptawan Suwannakudt works in interdisciplinary forms that include painting, sculpture, and installation. Her work is based on lived experience and informed by socio-political issues through telling stories and intersections between different human experiences. It has often dealt with issues of empathy and commensurability informed by Buddhism, women’s issues, and cross-cultural dialogue. Trained as mural painter in her father’s workshop, the late master Paiboon Suwannakudt who was a writer, poet, dancer, and choreographer. Her early childhood involved reading her father’s manuscripts and learning Thai mural painting drafting skills. In her teens she was sent to read Thai poetry with the late poet, artist Chang Sae Tang. Phaptawan worked on a year contract as an ESL teacher to Vietnamese, Lao and Khmer refugees for UNHCR at Nongkhai Refugee camp on the border of Thailand. Later she became the first woman to lead a temple mural painting team in Thailand in 1990. Earlier work outside Buddhist temple schemes examined some of the gendered restrictions that have both shaped and limited her art practice. This has since expanded to a multi-layered structure that includes elements which produce visual distortion such as mirror, sheer fabric, and Perspex sheets. They have often involved the use of Thai text, sometimes with sensorial elements such as sound and smell.

She was born in Thailand, 1959, and graduated from Silpakorn University, Nakhon Phatom, with a degree in English and German. She later led a team of painters that worked in Buddhist temples throughout Thailand during the 1980s-1990s. She was also involved in the women artists’ group exhibition Tradisexion in 1995 and in Womanifesto. Phaptawan relocated to Australia in 1996 and completed an MVA at Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney University. She has exhibited extensively in Australia, Thailand and internationally including the18th Biennale of Sydney: All Our Relations (2012); Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia, Museum of Anthropology, UBC, Vancouver, Canada (2017); the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale, Thailand (2018); Asia TOPA, Art Centre Melbourne (2020); The National at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (2021); a collaborative project with Sue Pedley Line work: The River of the Basin scheduled at the Lewers’ House, Penrith Regional Gallery New South Wales (2021); and an installation work Sleeping Deep Beauty for ESOK in Jakarta Biennale 2021.

Her works are in public collections including the Art Bank Sydney, the National Art Gallery of Thailand, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the National Gallery of Singapore. Phaptawan is also engaged in a collaborative project Leave It and Break No Hearts with Samak Kosem and curated by Patrick Flores at 100 Tonson Foundation, Bangkok Thailand, a six-month program during March – August 2022