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Contemporary art

Asian art

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Phaptawan Suwannakudt

Thailand, Australia

1959 -


From 1984 until 1996 Suwannakudt led a group of mural painters known as the Tan Kudt Group in working on large mural projects for temples and hotels in Thailand. In the mid-1990s she co-founded Womanifesto, a series of bi-annual activities in Bangkok in which Thai and international women artists were invited to participate. The first Womanifesto event took place at the Concrete House Art Centre, an NGO activist and arts organisation working with sex-workers and HIV/AIDS sufferers in Northern Bangkok.

Suwannakudt moved to Australia in 1996 and in 2006 graduated with a Master of Visual Arts from the Sydney College of Arts, University of Sydney. She has exhibited in a number of solo and group exhibitions in Australia and internationally. In 2012, she was included in the 18th Biennale of Sydney, 'All Our Relations' and her work was included in the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale 2018-2019.

Unravel was first exhibited as part of the Last words exhibition series held at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in 2010. The exhibition sought to explore the complex cultural, social and historical conditions of central Sydney and its relationship to the broader metropolis, the country and the Asian region. Unravel relates to Australia’s historical and changing relationship to the world in accessible and engaging ways. As John Young Zerunge wrote of Suwannakudt’s work in 2010, “…I would like to argue that her transformative intent and processes are precisely what is needed in our cities on the move…there is a spiritual offering… that preserve mnemonic, mythological and cultural resonances and values…that delivers a complexity of the migratory subject…”

Spoken languages and their written manifestation have long been of interest to Suwannakudt whose work frequently combines figurative painting with text. Unravel began as part of an ongoing exploration of the ancient Thai Buddhist text, Traibhumi (Three worlds of Buddhist cosmology) which deals with transformation from desire to form to formlessness. This series of work involves the layering of text through a delicate process of masking and peeling. As layers and text are added, others are removed and erased creating a kind of archaeology of language and human relations. The work was created in Bangkok during an intense period of political conflict between protestors and the Thai military. In response, Suwannakudt also incorporated texts from Local history by Dhida Saraya and an exhibition catalogue accompanying the exhibition Krungthep 226: the art from early days Bangkok to the imagined future, further imbuing her work with an empathy for the long history of suffering in the city. She similarly integrated a piece of Chinese silk given to her by a friend and fellow artist the calligrapher Yang Jiechang. Suwannakudt stated: ‘I wrote on the piece of Chinese silk he gave me with black ink, only the text was written in Thai.’ The writing of Thai text, both religious and historical, continues Suwannakudt’s ongoing investigation into the relationship between archaic systems of Thai religious and political order and their tracings in the contemporary written word.


Place where the work was made

Sydney New South Wales Australia



Materials used

ink and dye pigment on silk


180.0 x 120.0 cm overall :

c - left panel, 180 x 40 cm

b - central panel, 180 x 40 cm

a - right panel, 180 x 40 cm


Gift of Gillian Green. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program 2020


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Phaptawan Suwannakudt

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


John Young Zerunge, Last words, 'Phaptawan Suwannakudt: Wakeful moment', pp. 108- 115., Sydney, 2010, 113 (colour illus.).