Burhan Dogancay's celebrated Ribbons series emerged in the early 1970s, marking a departure from his earlier wall textured and collaged works. In this series there is a transition from his realistic renditions of weather-beaten, dirty urban walls to more refined and more abstract renditions of walls.
Colours and 'printed' details are minimized, and the optical effects of light and shadow heightened by the increasing complexity of the illusionistic torn sheets shown as if lit by sharp raking light in an apparent relief in comparison to the flat surface. Gradually the background becomes reduced to black or white, and the composition of 'torn' parts becomes concentrated within the centre of the picture.
In these neat and disciplined looking works, Dogancay plays with light and shadow- unusual in that shadows are typically treated as an interference with the viewing process rather than as the natural component of light. Dogancay challenges the notion that shadow is the unwanted by-product of light. To him light without shadow is unbalanced; the presence of shadow is demanded. The Ribbons series therefore is not a reflection but an interpretation of light.
Dogancay's Ribbon paintings resemble aspects of cursive Islamic calligraphy, and he recognized this aspect in the titles of some of these works. Others, however, remained untitled.