“I was drawn to printmaking, I think, because there was just something about the power of the imagination undergoing the purgation of method. The process of purgation—I have to be mindful of the image in reverse, I have to cut, the indirectness of the method—(this) resistance creates pause which then allows thought. . . . ”
—Transcript of an interview with Robert F. McGovern, (1933-2011) artist and professor emeritus at the University of the Arts. Produced by the Senior Artists Initiative, Oral History Project.
Talking about his development as an artist, Bob McGovern opens up a little window into how artistic process works for him. For an artist, whatever his or her medium, the working process, authentically engaged, is an opportunity for the work itself to speak, to offer first the artist, and ultimately the artist’s audience the possibility of transformation. For McGovern the printmaking process, the work of making a print, is particularly conducive to arriving at imaginative thought. Subjected to process, the artist’s original concept may be wonderfully transformed by the demands and constraints of the medium.
For McGovern the power of the imagination offers an alternative energy with which to resist the mean, the negative, the destructive impulses on the loose in the world. Recalling the tough neighborhood where he spent his youth and his unlikely choice to pursue a career as an artist, McGovern characterizes himself as “One desperate to imagine something new . . . ” Born of his impulse to seek an alternative to his particular circumstances, his quest eventually became “to provoke the imagination into being a servant of the human family.”
Later in the same interview McGovern speaks of sending out the imaginative thought—that one that the purgative method has so richly distilled—as a gift offered to others; “jet fuel for the journey”.
If the resistance inherent in the materials we work with provides the generative spark for that imaginative thought, be it a flash of beauty, a moment of transcendence, or a challenging reflection; how well worth the struggle.