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Jeffrey Cheung. Courtesy of Hashimoto Contemporary

Regulars / Ones To Watch 2018

“I feel empowered in my queerness and hope to also empower others”: artist Jeffrey Cheung

It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch shines a light on 12 emerging talents who we think will conquer the creative world in 2018. From a global pool of creative talent, we have chosen our 2018 Ones To Watch for their ability to consistently produce inspiring and engaging work across a diverse range of disciplines. Each of our selections continually pushes the boundaries of what is possible with their creative output. Ones to Watch 2018 is supported by Uniqlo.

The word “unity” was a central topic of conversation when we last spoke to artist Jeffrey Cheung for our Ones To Watch 2018. “Unity” is the name of the platform Jeffrey set up to support and empower queer people in skateboarding; it was the name of his first music project; and it now also lends its name to his second solo exhibition, In Unity, at San Francisco’s Hashimoto Contemporary. “I started Unity skateboarding just before the opening of my first show over a year ago,” Jeffrey tells us. "I was hand-painting boards and giving them to queer skaters and wanted the imagery to be inclusive and more representative of other identities. In Unity is a colourful celebration of queer and trans bodies.”

Jeffrey’s portfolio is bold, vibrant and dynamic. Energetic figures dance and leap across his canvases, intertwining their long limbs as they animatedly interact with one another. His androgynous characters discard traditional notions of gender and sexuality. In the place of restrictive classifications, Jeffrey’s body-positive art offers an alternative understanding of gender as a fluid construct. In Unity, Jeffrey says, builds on his existing work by expanding on themes he has already touched upon to be more inclusive of marginalised groups and queer identities. Whereas his earlier work reflected on his personal experiences, In Unity attempts to communicate wider ideas surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

“As a queer person of colour, I recognise the importance of depicting brown and black bodies in my artwork,” Jeffrey explains. “I never intentionally meant for the bodies in my earlier work to be understood as white, but I now realise how they may be perceived that way and decided to change that. I think living under white heteronormative standards means that we all internalise all sorts of negativity and learned social constructs. I am realising those things even more and it has made me re-think a lot about myself and the people around me. But I am very happy about where I am right now. I feel empowered in my queerness and hope to also empower others.” Jeffrey’s work is an exuberant celebration of queer identity and, through his lively, charismatic figures, offers a much-needed opportunity for queer and trans visibility.

Jeffrey emphasises the importance of challenging the cis, heteronormative male gaze in art by encouraging creatives to explore different narratives from various walks of life. His work is, in part, a reaction to the saturation of art hanging in galleries that has been painted by white men of white women. “It’s important to have other perspectives. I’m really excited to paint large-scale paintings of nude queer and trans bodies in a positive way because we rarely see these communities represented in the art world and I would like to see that change.”

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Jeffrey Cheung. Courtesy of Hashimoto Contemporary

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Jeffrey Cheung. Courtesy of Hashimoto Contemporary

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Jeffrey Cheung. Courtesy of Hashimoto Contemporary

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Jeffrey Cheung. Courtesy of Hashimoto Contemporary

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Jeffrey Cheung. Courtesy of Hashimoto Contemporary