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There’s no stopping Filipino artist Jefre Manuel Figueras, also known as Jefrë, from carving his name in the international art scene. He is now commissioned to build massive public art in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

In an exclusive interview with MB Life, the creative man behind the 40-foot tall “Time Sculpture” statue in EDSA, shares how he’s able to secure this multi-million massive art installation project, together with a meaningful message for every aspiring artist. 

Jefrë

Winning the project

According to Jefrë, he and his teammates from a planning and landscape architecture firm Perkins&Will worked hard to win this project. 

“The city of Jacksonville, which is located in Florida, USA, issued a design competition worldwide,” he says. “So we went through the competition. There were 14 teams that submitted that included really well known artists on their teams as well.” 

With his icon design for the project that scored 19 out 20, this helped their team a lot to win the competition. But what’s with his design proposal that wins the judges’ hearts? 

It’s the meaning behind the sculpture design that honors Jacksonville’s history and culture. 

“There are specific details of the city’s identity that are in this sculpture,” he says. “It is set to be 151 feet or 1822 inches tall, corresponding to Jacksonville’s founding date of June 5, 1822. The total linear length of the sculpture is 310 feet, which is the length of St. Johns River in nautical miles. I used these numbers to create abstract images and shapes that form the sculpture. The original image I had in mind was that of an anchor with a series of nautical knots in the shape of a heart, the figure eight, and an ‘X’.”

From an elevated angle, Jefrë’s design will look like spell out of word Jax which is the short for Jacksonville, while from another angle it could be seen as I Love X or I love Jacksonville. 

If all goes according to plan, this project will be finished in 2023. 

“I was really excited because Jacksonville has the largest population of Filipinos in the state of Florida, around 15,000 people, a lot to deal with in the shipping industry. So there’s a lot of Filipinos locally that are very excited about this project as well,” he says. “The idea of the form of the sculpture is my appreciation of the river, an anchor to the city that also represents the river and the love between the people and the river, and the love story that they have there.” 

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Handling criticism 

Although it’s already been announced that Jefrë will be the one doing the public art project, he’s still receiving a lot of negative feedback, including being referred to as a  “Filipino con-artist.” But the sculptor is taking criticism as a way to improve himself and his craft. 

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“The best advice I would give is to stay true to your passion and enjoy what you do. That success is just a state of mind, that it depends on what your goal is. Especially in the art world, it’s not necessarily about money—it’s about things that have to do with humanity, with social responsibility, with questioning what’s considered normal or not normal. I think a lot of my art isn’t about giving provocative answers, it’s about sparking a discussion,” he says. “Another thing is to understand the business—you can’t just have a left brain, you’ve got to have a right brain. I have benefitted a lot from understanding the business of art and knowing how to make a living, while always trying not to be the lead artist. That’s the best advice I can give to aspiring artists.” 

If everything goes well, Jefrë is looking forward to holding a solo exhibit in the Philippines this 2022. 

This is something we’re all looking forward to? 

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