Bio – Sonny Assu


Multidisciplinary artist Sonny Assu pushes the boundaries of contemporary art by challenging the perception of Aboriginal art. Assu merges Aboriginal iconography with the aesthetics of popular culture to challenge the social and historical values placed upon both. An exploration of his mixed ancestry, his work appropriates or transforms items of consumer and popular culture to trace the lineage of his own personal life. Interested in ideas around Aboriginal issues, branding and new technologies, he works across many boundaries and disciplines and in doing so, reveals a ravishing oeuvre that speaks to many. In his artistic practice, Assu continues to be inspired by and use imagery from contemporary pop and consumer culture such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Apple. The Breakfast Series (2006) appropriates the branding and identity of sugary breakfast cereals to comment on Aboriginal issues in Canada. In 2010, his use of consumer culture iconography rendered some of his works to be refused approval for display during the Vancouver Olympics. Although asked to show his breakfast series and Coke Salish piece on the SkyTrain, one of the cereal boxes in the series was not approved for display and neither was Coke Salish for reasons of copyright and sponsor relations. Another work, iHamatsa Rising, was also set to be displayed during the Olympics on a bus shelter. It was denied, after being printed, for fears that the iconography of the iPod included would be seen as advertising, which was not allowed in the downtown core during the games other than approved Olympic sponsors.