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Purpose and Pigment: Katrina Gosiengfiao’s powerful messages in a bottle

Text and photos by Patricia Bayona / July 26 2019

​Katrina Gosiengfiao, or “Kat Grow”, is no stranger to the lime light. As founder of PintaPH, many have already taken notice of her handmade watercolors. Her entry to her latest group exhibit, “Paper Weight”, however, shows that Katrina Gosiengfiao offers more than mere novelty.

As an installation situated among other works of art, Katrina Gosiengfiao’s installation does not clamor for attention. Fixed on a white wall is a simple wooden bar. On top of it, clear bottles stuffed with paper. According to Grow, the contents were in fact discarded paper that she used when she painted using her watercolors. As a natural result, the scraps of paper picked up color ranging from hues of brown to blue. Each color is then given a “label” through cutouts from discarded money bills from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, something which the institution voluntarily gave to Kat for her installation.

Perhaps it is already of common knowledge that, for her watercolors, Grow only uses “organic” material such as rocks and plants. But what others seem to miss out is that there is a more complex network of people situated in varying distances, all working to produce “Sta. Rosa ochre” or “sinag yellow”.

“When I travel, I meet these communities that are knowledgeable of extracting dyes, such as those in Abra, Ifugao and Bacolod”, Grow explained in an interview. According to her, she would partner with these communities in the suburbans of the Philippines and try to learn where and how to source organic material for her watercolor.

“It started when I wanted to find my purpose in art and I explored my relationship with, firstly, my materials. From there, I began to have a passion for understanding nature and how we make our relationship with our materials sustainable or to make sense with it. Why do we need to use finite materials? Why not use materials that perhaps are not as permanent but holds a cultural value to someone else?”One of Grow’s philosophy in art is that art includes a process where all movements should be valuable. “Hindi pwede produce lang ng produce, or consume ng consume. (We can’t simply keep on producing and consuming) And that is why the paper scraps I use when I paint are not discarded.” According to Grow, her installation poses a question: Why is discarded paper and money bills placed carefully in a bottle, placed on top of a well-lit wooden pedestal? “You need to ask what is it with this discarded material. What do we do with it?”

All of a sudden, the scraps of paper soaked with watercolor ceases to be just that. It is the work of an artist’s hand, and a work of a community trying to make ends meet.

“Paper Weight” examines paper and its convenience and significance. It can be viewed in Altro Mondo from 20 July 2019 to 20 July 2019.

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