Arizona ArtBeat: Light Constructions

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Artist Pasha Rafat explores the “physicality of light” in an exhibition of light produced by neon and other gasses that’s currently at ASU’s Night Gallery.

Ted Simons: On tonight's "Arizona Artbeat," producer David Majure and photographer Scot Olson take us to the night gallery at Tempe marketplace, where neon art is all aglow.
David Majure: Like something out of Vegas, the brilliant glow of neon light beckons shoppers into the night gallery at Tempe marketplace. These light constructions are the work of artist Pasha Rafat, he's an ASU alumnus who works at Las Vegas and teaches photography at UNLV, Rafat and his crew spent days of assembling these creations of glass, gas and electricity.
Pasha Rafat: Here I am, struggling with these lights, unpacking and these packing devices and electrodes and transformers, it's like hellish.
David Majure: It's much more involved than your average art exhibition.
Pasha Rafat: I'm trying to figure out a way to get away from this and make something else like the artists who roll up their drawings and put them in a tube and send them to a museum. Boy I mean, I know some of those artists -
David Majure: Don't let him fool you. Rafat could be hanging prints on a wall. He started his artistic career as a photographer. But what he found interesting about photography was not necessarily the subjects of his images, it was more the atmosphere produced by light, shadows, and color.
Pasha Rafat: You try to create some puzzles, some kind of situation with light and tubes and dimension.
David Majure: So he began experimenting with that photographic essence in a three-dimensional space. It seemed the natural evolution of his artistic pursuits.
Pasha Rafat: Those things I was interested in could be created through three-dimensional objects so this idea of lights and color came out of that. But it does come from photography.
David Majure: He calls his work light construction. Simple arrays of gas filled tubes that pulsate and illuminate when charged with electricity.
Pasha Rafat: The gas itself creates color, where you put them and what size tube you use, and how you put them together, it's tricky. In other words, it's like if you put them together in certain ways and create poetry.
David Majure: A student of architecture, Rafat is acutely aware of how his sculptures connect to the space around him.
Pasha Majure: You need to be aware of the environment you're in. In other words, context becomes everything.
David Majure: He's not interested in organic shapes and designs. Instead, he prefers the clean lines and angles of geometry.
Pasha Rafat: Every time I think you create those organic imagery, you make an association with something, which is, you know, it's an apple, something. Which is really ok. I'm just not interested in those things. I'm interested in geometry because basically geometry reflects or connects to something which has to do with the architecture and that interest me. I didn't know how to make the pieces so I stuck them in the corner and made a false wall. So they can go in them. In a way, I'm trying to get out corner, everybody says the corner is not important, you just put your pieces on the main wall. But to me, I think the corners become very important. Creating this light was to kind of create some kind of mystery.
David Majure: Rafat admits his work is all very experimental and doesn't expect you nor want you to get it.
Pasha Rafat: You don't know what you're looking at. You try and grasp it, and that's important. It's actually important not to quite get it. I'm actually interested in the kind of work I don't understand. Once I get it, I think I'm bored.
David Majure: He does want his audience to feel a connection if ever so briefly to the atmospheres he creates.
Pasha Rafat: Somebody looks at the piece -- aha. I think, that moment is very important to me. If it doesn't happen, obviously, I've messed it up. I mean, it's -- I haven't been successful. But I'm looking for that. That interests me.
David Majure: He lives for the aha moment when the light comes on, even if it doesn't stay lit for long.
Pasha Rafat: If you stay a little bit longer in front of the piece, then obviously, I'm much happier, but those few seconds if you respond to the work, I think that's ok.
Ted Simons: "Out of Vegas: the light constructions of Pasha Rafat" is at the night gallery in Tempe marketplace through September 25th. The night gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Pasha Rafat:Artist

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