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It is virtually impossible to speak of Ward’s drawings without visualising a teenager’s back. This is an image that recurs throughout his work, and which he appropriated and gradually perfected.

Nevertheless, his early zines were mainly collections of faces and people (see: Animals). Only later did silhouettes start to turn away from the viewer and the outside world. Remarkably, he never lost access to the emotional world of his characters. We tend to feel the emotions and vulnerability in these images even more, as if their feelings are hidden in the folds of their t-shirts. Readers are effectively positioned behind the figure, looking with them through their eyes. Together, we are immersed in thoughts, we view the surroundings with them, lose our way as we gaze at the landscapes. Staring into infinity, these teens are caught between childhood and adulthood. The lanky young bodies in transition often seem most suited to interpret the feelings which Ward wanted to convey in his stories and drawings.

Teenagers. © WARD ZWART
Teenagers. © WARD ZWART

A few interesting examples can be found on the covers of 'Watermelon Fight' (70), Pt. 2 (71), 'Twins' (72) and 'Cosmos, Texaco' (27). In many of the stories and autonomous charcoal drawings Ward made, the subject is depicted from the back. In 2017, he made a flag commissioned by C3T Store (73), showing the naked back of a young man. In countless illustrations for newspapers and magazines, he also used this motif.

In a brief homage to Ward, illustrator Sander Van de Vijver wrote on his Facebook wall (74):

In 2009, Ward worked with Astrid Yskout, Ephameron and Gerard Leysen to illustrate a publication of memories (75). The exchange of word and image between these different authors mixed separate experiences into a communal experience of childhood. After a first short black and white comic (68), 'Herinneringen' (‘Memories’) can be seen as Ward’s next step towards narrativity. Many sequential comics followed after this, published as shorter and longer zines, some of which were collected in 'Mostly Cola' (82). Gradually, his looser, more grotesque portrait style evolved into a realistic-looking universe in which the characters’ physical proportions were largely maintained and fauna and flora were rendered extraordinarily, almost photographically, in shades of grey.

  • (27) Cosmos, Texaco — Charlotte Van den Broeck and Ward Zwart. PoëzieCentrum: Ghent, 2020, offset in two spot colours with foldout cover.
  • (68) Zwart ('Black') — Ward Zwart and Joeri Zwart, including the short story The Beastmom and others. Self-published: Kalmthout, year unknown, number of copies unknown, technique: photocopy with cover in colour copy.
  • (70) Watermelon Fight — Ward Zwart. Self-published: Antwerp, 2010, 45 copies, technique: self-printed with an offset printer, 2 colours, foldout dust jacket.
  • (71) Pt. 2 — Ward Zwart. Self-published: Antwerp, 2011, 2x50 copies, technique: photocopy.
  • (72) Twins — Ward Zwart. Self-published: Antwerp, 2014, number of copies unknown, technique: photocopy with cover on pale-yellow paper.
  • (73) C3T Store — short-lived online shop selling artistic curiosities, established by Laura Geurten and Mayken Craenen.
  • (74) Over Ward Zwart (1985-2020) ('About Ward Zwart (1985-2020)')— Sander Van de Vijver. Facebook status, 28/10/2020.
  • (75) Herinneringen (‘Memories’) — Astrid Yskout, Ephameron, Gerard Leysen and Ward Zwart. Self-published: Antwerp, 2009, 300 copies, technique: photocopy with screen-printed cover in two colours on brown cardboard.
  • (82) Mostly Cola - Ward Zwart. Anthology of short stories written in 2010 and 2011. Self-published: Antwerp, 500 copies, offset in two spot colours, foldout dust jacket.