Inspired by the vibrant urban landscape of New York City, Turkish artist Burhan Dogançay has managed to develop an oeuvre of great dynamism that continues to be celebrated. The highly textured and intensely complex art forms which stimulated his creative process, culminated to inform his most renowned Ribbon series, from which the present work is taken. The 1970s are Dogançay’s most coveted period of artistic production, referencing a crucial time in the artist’s life after he moved to New York and was fascinated by the spontaneous graffiti and dynamic street art. Consumed by more than just its aesthetic values he looked to its execution; the layering of colours, manipulation textures, universal imagery and profound playfulness.
Through meticulously organised compositions, Dogançay treats the picture plane as a vehicle for communicating the complexities of light, shadow, and three-dimensional texture. Despite seeking powerful influence from the grittiness of torn up posters, ripped billboards and the dynamic spontaneity of street art, it is fascinating that Dogançay manages to reinterpret these impulsive qualities through a much more disciplined aesthetic - a true testament to his artistic methodology.
The present work boasts a stark white canvas that takes on the role of a ‘wall’ and is punctured by the contrast of beautiful swirling ribbons which dominate the right-hand portion of the picture plane. As a clear departure from his earlier textured and collaged works, the present canvas exudes a sense of maturity and restraint. The highly organised, pristine paper strips are crafted in in a manner which mirror calligraphic lettering. Dogançay’s well-versed familiarity with abstract simplicity, allowed him to transform the ebbs and flows of the Islamic calligraphic script in order to achieve the lengthy and delicate looking composition of the ribbons. Placed as though it was merely a floating fragment on a sturdy sea of vast white, the artist uses the precision of his visual language to rearticulate the wear and tear of torn up street posters. Shades of grey, orange, red, black, brown and gold enable the artist to play on the viewer’s optical senses. The dynamism of this trompe-l’oeil helped Dogançay challenge the principles of two-dimensionality within the canvas. In contrast to what would realistically be a more dirty, and worn out wall, the artist transforms the canvas into a clean white slate, which exude an undeniably Zen quality.
Attune to the imagery and ideologies of the outside world, Dogançay followed in the footsteps of American artists such as Conrad Marca-relli and Italian Mimmo Rotella, whose artistic practices were rooted in the layering and manipulation of shapes and popular imagery. While Dogançay’s approach may have been more polished, he was intent on encapsulating a similar sense of dimensionality within his works. By challenging the two-dimensionality of the canvas as well as the posters from which he sought influence, the artist achieves three-dimensionality through layering, use of light and shadow and a unique combination of colours. Reflecting the void or sense of isolation that is often felt by individuals on the busy streets, Dogançay brings a more personal touch to his abstract canvases and by reconciling his Turkish heritage, with a Western identity, he manages to produce a powerful set of imagery.