Sonny Assu | Une histoire sélective

Sonny Assu | A Selective History

July 26 to November 24, 2018

In partnership with Land InSights, master coordinator of the International First Peoples Festival Présence Autochtone, La Guilde presented the exhibition Sonny Assu: A Selective History, from July 26 to November 24, 2018. This exhibition showcased a total of ten works from two important series of his productions: #NeverIdle and Interventions on the Imaginary. The corpus of artworks exhibited thus represented five years of creations. This event marked La Guilde’s first collaboration with the artist, as well as his first solo exhibition in Montreal since 2016.

Sonny Assu is known for his esthetic interventions which call to mind tags (graffiti); boasting abstract and ovoidal shapes, they are distinctive of Northwest coast iconography, acting as a claim to First Nations cultures, despite Canada’s repeated efforts to assimilate such cultures. Also known for his sense of humour and his subversive works, the artist bases his practice on the exploration of consumption, colonization and imperialism.


Multidisciplinary artist born in 1975 in North Delta, British Columbia, Sonny Assu only discovered his Liǥwildaʼx̱w / Kwakwaka’wakw heritage at the age of eight years old. A crucial revelation which will several years later become the esthetic starting point of his artistic practice. Having grown up in suburbia, Sonny Assu was from a tender age fully immersed in pop culture. In his work, one can denote references to graffiti, to science fiction series, and to new technologies. His artwork, halfway between tradition and modernity, creates a dialogue on the exploration of consumption, colonization and imperialism. Through disillusioned humour, he explores his own family history, while attempting to highlight Canada’s shadowy past with regards to its relations with First Nations peoples.

Despite being in his young forties, Sonny Assu has an impressive track record. Having graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in British Columbia, he pursued his studies with a Master’s degree from Concordia University in Quebec. He received numerous prizes and distinctions, the most notable being the BC Creative Achievement Award in First Nations Art in 2011, and in 2017 the REVEAL grant, First Nations Art category. His work has been exhibited in the most prestigious museums and galleries in Canada, Paris and in Seattle. His artworks are part of many noteworthy collections, such as that of the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. He currently lives and works in Ligwiłda’xw (Campbell River, B.C.), an unceded territory.

Image: SONNY ASSU, Home Coming, 2014, digital intervention on Paul Kane painting (Scene near Walla Walla, 1848-52), edition of 5. Courtesy of the artist and Art Mûr Gallery.
Photos: Exhibition views, 2018. © La Guilde