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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


About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. They hold a degree in Critical and Cultural Practices from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, as well as a certificate in Technical Writing from BCIT. Dallas has a passion for speaking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In their studio practice they are an illustrator and budding tattoo artist, but they consider themselves a writer foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises or their art on Instagram.

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