On Unceded Lands: The Art Portfolio of Sonny Assu

A mixed media artwork combining a traditional First Nations art style with a modern aestheticLandlines #4, acrylic ink on Stonehenge Archival Paper

Sonny Assu is an interdisciplinary artist of Liǥwildax̱w/Kwakwaka’wakw heritage, hailing from southern British Columbia. In his practice, the artist addresses and reconciles that heritage with his suburban Canadian upbringing and experiences of life in a colonial state on unceded lands

An art piece consisting of an arcade console and an original videoBroken Treaties, Maple, copper leaf, paint (video: Clayfighter by Brendon Tang)


Through numerous series, the artist draws on styles and iconography from two worlds, combining seemingly disparate visuals in a way that updates and synthesizes the visual styles and ideas, while still emphasizing the tension between them. The resulting works are not quite traditional first nations artworks, nor are they fully contemporary western or European. 

A screen capture of Sonny Assu's art portfolio websitewww.sonnyassu.com


Sonny’s recent Landlines series is a great example of this. The artist uses fragmented imagery from maps, combining and collaging it with forms drawn from Liǥwildax̱w/Kwakwaka’wakw art. The use of a cohesive, high-contrast colour scheme and the style of the artist’s shading makes these works feel like abstracted pages from a comic book.

A mixed media artwork incorporating original figures and fragments of mapsLandlines #11, acrylic ink on Stonehenge archival paper

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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