On Unceded Lands: The Art Portfolio of Sonny Assu
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.
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.
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.