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Traditional Meets Commercial : Art by Sonny Assu

A graphic image emulating a popular style, showing traditional indigenous art stylings.There Is Hope, If We Rise #3

Montreal-based artist Sonny Assu is well known for his body of work that uses the iconography of traditional indigenous art, while still working with contemporary materials and aesthetics, and tackling important, socially charged subject matter.


A series of prints on foam core, putting an activist spin on well-known cereal mascotsBreakfast Series, digital print, foam core


#NoFilter Artwork on Sonny Assu's website#NoFilter on

Much of Sonny’s materially varied work comes from a conceptual standpoint of challenging notions of the true nature, appearance and relevance of traditional indigenous art forms. As a Canadian artist, Sonny is looking at a particularly complex and problematic history of oppression. In contrast to the weight of his subject matter, many of Sonny’s works are bright and almost pop-art-esque in form, sometimes emulating the simplified graphic imagery one would see in advertisements – the most striking examples being his pieces that emulate logos on products as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s cereal, and a recent ad campaign by the Gap.


The forms of Sonny’s artworks force the viewer to think more closely about how we read and immerse ourselves in this kind of advertising imagery – as well as the tension that occurs when traditional meets commercial.


A wall installation of 67 elk-hide drums painted to look like LPsBilly and the Chiefs: The Complete Banned Collection, 67 elk-hide drums, installation at the Vancouver Art Gallery

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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