Sonny Assu’s paintings are a modern and unique approach to the iconic Northwest coastline. Assu infuses his work with wry humour to open the dialogue toward the use of consumerism, branding, and technology as totemic representation. His concerns include loss of language, loss of cultural resources, and the effects of colonization on the Indigenous people of North America.
Sonny Assu, born in 1975 in Richmond, British Columbia, is Ligwilda’xw of the We Wai Kai First Nation. Through museum interventions, large-scale installations, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and paintings, Assu merges the aesthetics of Indigenous iconography with a pop art sensibility in an effort to address contemporary political and ideological issues. He often focuses on Indigenous issues and rights, as well as the ways in which the past has come to inform contemporary ideas and identities.
Assu has a clear interest in materiality. He carefully considers the materials used for each work, particularly in relation to Indigenous culture: hand-painted deer or elk hide drums for their performance significance; posters for their mass-distribution qualities; and copper for its cultural importance to the Indigenous People of the Northwest Coast. Assu’s projects emphasize the intersections and boundaries of traditional Indigenous art within the larger realm of contemporary art.