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System Corrupted

System Corrupted in an unparalleled time, when a virus that broke out radically changed the world and challenged all systems, Charlie Co reflects on the fragility of the world, humanity, and the human within the systems.  The body of work in this collection was created between 2019 to 2023 where Co chronicles a period of premonition, the dark pandemic crisis, national and global concerns of the time, his uncertainties on his faith, and questions on the system of the artworld.


Dark and unwary, sincere and surreal, the works are filled with the artist’s visible energy sensed through the strong textures and blazing colors. The works are monumental, encrusted with symbols that form narratives within narratives.  The sizes are formidable, intended to draw its viewer inside, to be one with the images, to create his or her own story from the images.   


In Reflecting De Bruyckere (2019) Co confronts the frailties of existence and freedom, of life and death. In The World Gone Mad (2020) he journals going through the pandemic and the events within the peak of the lock down. The Cross Series (2022) express a period of self dissecting his faith. Do We Have A Choice? (2022) questions: What did we do to the world? Do we want this? In Paradox (2023) he questions the institutions and players of the artworld and contemplates on the role he plays as an artist inside the system. The installation of the massive matchsticks holds together the message of the artist:  life is fragile, the world is fragile.  


But the artist can only tell his stories.  On how to see and interpret these stories, Co calls upon the viewer to make a personal reflection and make the interpretation.

(Moreen Austria)


Fertility Flowers

Glass, scent and video


In mythology across cultures, women’s bodies are transformed into plants as punishment for acting on their desires and taking agency over their own bodies. In Philippine folklore, these cautionary tales have perpetuated the archetype of the submissive, virginal Filipina—her personhood contingent on her willingness to conform to the social mores of the time. 


Fertility Flowers is an interactive installation of glass, scent and video that interrogates the origins and mythologies of several flowers native to the artist’s home country, the Philippines. In the tale of the dama de noche (Cestrum nocturnum), a queen is unable to produce an heir, and in her desolation, becomes a night-blooming flower. Meanwhile, colonized West Indian women used the peacock flower (Caesalpina pulcherrima) as an abortifacient so they would not bear children into slavery. The cadena de amor (Antigonon leptopus), whose name translates to “chains of love,” came to represent the moral puritanism Filipino women were bound to during the Spanish era.


Poblador follows a throughline from her earlier ecofeminist oeuvre, including Venus Freed (2015) and The Myth of the Ylang-ylang (2015), which showed how flowers such as the ylang-ylang (Cananga onorata) are taken from their countries of origin and appropriated through trade. In Fertility Flowers, she turns this lens towards reproduction as the crux of centuries of subjugation women have suffered at the hands of colonial and patriarchal powers. In her glass sculptures, figures of women emerge from fantastical, petaled forms as floral scents waft through the room. In the accompanying film, Poblador herself slips into the myths of these flowers to commune with the women at their center. 


Drawing parallels between these florae and the colonized female body, Poblador turns the myths on their heads to imagine the Filipina prying agency from her oppressors and blossoming towards emancipation.


(Apa Agbayani)


Thank you to the Oakspring Garden Foundation for your awarding me with the time, space and support which allowed me to finish this exhibition. This project was also supported in part by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant. 


Thank you to the Fertility Flowers Film Collaborators: 

Director of Photography: Sasha Palomares; Creative Direction by Apa Agbayani; Character Design, Hair and Makeup by Slo Lopez; Production Manager: Tony Battung; Edited by Abby Alcanzare; Color Grading by Bianca Francisco; Music composed and performed by Michelle Sui; Mixed and mastered by Zach Rosenberg, The Queen’s Royal Garb: Carl Jan Cruz and Namì. 


Thank you to Apa Agbayani and Joseph Sousa


An Idea of an Idea, A Memory of a Memory

The series of work in Isabel Santos’ An Idea of an Idea: A Memory of a Memory came into fruition during a flight back from Taiwan in 2015. Based on photographs of the formations in Yehliu Geopark – large, otherworldly limestone structures – which she fixated on to stave off anxious thoughts about her fear of flying. At the time, she had only begun her medication for mental illnesses diagnosed only in her adult life. 


Here is a period where she had been trying to find a way to live life with her newly prescribed medications and maintain the balancing act of her mental states. When you are in a state of distress and you find things that help you cope with these feelings, there is immense pressure to protect the fragility of the ecosystems you have built around you to protect yourself from further unpleasantness.

Despite having a cocktail of medications that she could rely on when on the flight itself, she still had to deal with the anxieties that come with waiting. Drawing came as a distraction, but Isabel soon found out that the act of focusing on an image meant that her mind was working and still couldn’t relax. Eventually, she stopped looking at images as references, and let her intuition guide her hand on the page. The tension in her brain eased, not unlike when she gets them when she reads. It soon became a form of meditation for her that she could count and rely on to ease her fears.


When she makes these pieces, Santos remembers the saying: Idle hands are the devil’s playground. She believes, to an extent, that it’s true. “When I have nothing to do, my mind goes to places I’d rather not have it go.” Doing these meditative drawings, where she empties her mind of everything except for the task at hand – making marks on a page – is meditative and calms her anxieties. They give her a focus that doesn’t strain her brain. For her the images produced are like visual representations of her brain. Perhaps her memories, rendered in a code only she can read.


(Ina Santos)


Isabel Santos has been showing her work since 2013, and has since participated in exhibitions held in Manila, Berlin, New York, and France. She was the grand prize winner of Uniqlo’s UT Grand Prix Competition, which was held  in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, in 2020.

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