Many of Ward’s projects are situated in and around woods. The location serves as a hiding place for both animal (see: Animals) and human (see: Treehouse), and represents a rite of passage in his work. In various stories, characters are transformed by their journey through the forest. Recalling Ward’s favourite coming-of-age film, 'Stand by Me' (42)—a few best friends go in search of a corpse in the woods, and on their way encounter forest inhabitants who have a lasting impact on their young lives (think: deer, leeches, trains)—the forest also stands for the ultimate location for brotherhood. Deep friendship, after all, is another central theme we encounter in the artist’s work and personal life.
The woods often bear a certain mysticism, seeming more disconnected from reality than the city. It is a place where animals speak, supernatural lights roam and UFOs appear (see: X-Files). In Ward’s big charcoal drawings of recent years, too, nature seemed to take over more and more, and the city disappeared into the background. For instance, for the exhibition 'Schaduwen' (‘Shadows’) (43), Ward was inspired by the films 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives' and 'Tropical Malady' by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (47). The tropical, jungle-like quality makes this forest, even more than that of the works mentioned above, a mystical place, difficult to gauge, that appeals to everyone’s imagination.
- (42) Stand by Me — Rob Reiner. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment: 1988.
- (43) Schaduwen (‘Shadows’) — dual exhibition by Ward Zwart and Bieke Depoorter. Galerie 10: Otegem, 2017.
- (47) Je maakt pas iets goeds als je het niet verwacht (‘You only make something good when you’re not expecting it’) — Elien Delaere. De Standaard, 3/6/2017.