A Thai Contemporary Artist on Identity, Power, and the Space In-Between: A Discussion with Phaptawan Suwannakudt


As a Thai-Australian woman artist, Phaptawan Suwannakudt has long battled prejudice and discrimination relating to her gender. This disappointment with society’s dictates features at the heart of Phaptawan’s artistic practice. Spanning more than four decades, Phaptawan’s rich body of work includes paintings, sculptures and installations, informed by Buddhism, women’s issues and cross-cultural dialogue. Now her talents are on display on the global stage once again, in ‘The National 2021: New Australian Art’ from 26 March to 5 September 2021.

In this episode of SSEAC Stories, Phaptawan Suwannakudt chats to Dr Natali Pearson about identity, power, and placemaking in the space in-between, recounting how she overcame hurdles to her artistic education and practice in what was once a male-dominated art scene, to become one of Australia’s and Thailand’s most prominent female artists.

Phaptawan Suwannakudt (born in Thailand, 1959), is an internationally acclaimed Thai contemporary artist. She trained as a mural painter with her father, the late master Paiboon Suwannakudt, and subsequently led a team of painters that worked extensively in Buddhist temples throughout Thailand in the 1980s-90s. She was also involved in the women artists group ‘Tradisexion’ in 1995, and later in ‘Womanifesto’. Phaptawan relocated to Australia in 1996 where she completed a Master of Visual Arts at the Sydney College of the Arts. She has exhibited extensively in Australia, Thailand and internationally. Most recently, her work was featured in 'Beyond Bliss', the Inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale in 2018-2019, as well as in the 2020 Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts in Melbourne, Australia. Many of her works are held in public and private collections locally and overseas, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Thailand, the National Gallery Singapore, and the Thai Embassy in Paris, among others. You can find more information about Phaptawan Suwannakudt on her website: phaptawansuwannakudt.com/.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website: sydney.edu.au/sseac.

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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