At the heart of a lush forest, a humble little church in shades of cream occupies the centre of the image. Pink and violet fluorescent forms float above the structure, with two small interventions placed in the lower right area.

Sonny Assu

(b. Richmond, British Columbia, 1975)




Digital intervention on Indian Church (1929) by Emily Carr

Archival Pigment Print

57.15 cm x 90.17 cm

Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Art Mûr and Equinox Gallery

© Sonny Assu

In Re-invaders, the Aboriginal artist Sonny Assu appropriates a painting by Emily Carr called Indian Church (1929). Starting with a digital reproduction of Carr's work, Assu inserted ovoid motifs inspired by Kwakwaka’wakw art and treated like sci-fi illustrations or street art tags. Hovering above a church nestled in a lush forest, the three-dimensional neon forms resemble pop culture representations of UFOs. In this way, the artist negates the underlying colonial narrative of the original work – the Christian conversion of Aboriginal peoples by the dominant culture –, and instead affirms the persistence of Aboriginal culture.

Sonny Assu learned of his First Nations Kwakwaka’wakw ancestry at age eight. That defining moment later prompted him to open up a dialogue about Aboriginal identity through a hybrid, multidisciplinary artistic practice. Assu draws on popular culture, Canadian art history and Indigenous art to design his interventions, installations and digital collages. His works question the impact not only of colonization but of consumerism and new technologies on social relations. The artist’s aim is to gain a better understanding of how these influences have shaped the representation of contemporary identities.