Tahoooooo. Tahooooo. This early morning siren is one of the sounds that define the Philippines, and the warm feelings it evokes in so many is why the artist Qwark sought them out during a time of personal crisis. His new series is not just the about the magtataho though, but street vendors in general. As a young kid, he’d watch them on his way to school every day, and they left him with an impression he couldn’t fully explain. “I’d see the same ice cream man in the morning, at lunch, and afternoon,” Qwark explains. “I never understood until I grew older how these people spend long hours working for minimal income. I admire their resilience, their dedication to providing for their families. So now I depict these people as modern-day gods: people of wonder and might both in body and will.”
These illustrations are done in black linework, with intricately detailed characters that combine the rustic tools of their job with a sci-fi sheen. They float over a background of red outlines depicting the items they sell and use. All of the pieces in the series are also done on yellowed paper. It’s a departure from his more recent full-color illustrations, but one that harks back to his earlier style and also resembles the preliminary sketches for his colorful works.
“It was me saying I’m going to go back to my roots for a while. Im coming home,” Qwark says. “We left that home when I was 10. We were squatters and were evicted so we had to settle elsewhere. I was having mental health issues when I was making the artworks, and the feeling of home somehow helped me cope.”