Suwannakudt, Paiboon (1925–1982) By Veal, Clare
Paiboon Suwannakudt (Tan Kudt) was a neo-traditional Thai painter, who is credited as being one of the key figures in the modern reinvigoration of Thai mural painting. A graduate from the first group of students to study at the School of Fine Arts (later Silpakorn University), Paiboon originally wanted to be a sculptor like his teacher, Silpa Bhirarsri, but was encouraged to learn mural painting instead. From the reign of Rama V (r. 1868–1910), the Thai elite’s preferences for European art forms meant that by the 1950s Thai mural painting was a stagnant practice. Silpa Bhirasri’s encouragement of Paiboon to take up mural painting may then be viewed as part of his wider interest in the reinvigoration of traditional Thai art practices and their acceptance as legitimate fine art forms. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Paiboon studied painting by making visits to craftsmen working in the mural painting tradition and by copying murals at several temple compounds, including Wat Po, which is located near Silpakorn University. Paiboon’s work and his position as an artist were emblematic of a neo-traditional position: while he maintained a certain level of fidelity to the notion of tradition through his choice of subject matter and careful study of mural conventions, he also professed a degree of creative variation from traditional norms and a certain level of anti-conservatism.