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Translating the essence of Go into art

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-09 06:30
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Nie Weiping (center), a Chinese Go master, plays a game with two representatives of the artists and organizers of the exhibition at its opening. [Photo provided to China Daily]

An exhibition at the Jiushi Art Museum in Shanghai is featuring artwork inspired by Go, one of the oldest board games in the world, which originated in China more than 4,000 years ago.

The Game Art Vs Go Culture: 2023 China-Netherlands-Japan Invitation Exhibition in Shanghai, which started on May 31 and will run until July 21, is showcasing 41 artworks by 17 artists.

Presented by the Shanghai International Culture Association, the exhibition is one of the many events the organization is hosting that is related to the interactions between different cultures.

The idea of the exhibition was derived from the historical Go game between South Korean Go master Lee Se-dol and AlphaGo, the artificial intelligence Go player developed by Google's Deep-Mind. In March 2016, the two competed in five games, with AlphaGo losing one game.

Tree, III, a sculpture by Japanese artist Gaku Kambayashi. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Go, or weiqi in Chinese, is one of the earliest binary-based games. The movements of the black and white pieces reflect the basic ideas of Eastern philosophy, according to Tu Ningning, curator of the exhibition.

"The exhibition brings together Go culture, cutting-edge technology and contemporary art," says Tu. "We hope to present the rather abstract Go game and AI in a visual context, and initiate dialogues with minimalism art, conceptual art and expressionism."

In a Go game, each player places a piece on the point of intersection of any two lines on the checkered board marked with 19 vertical and 19 horizontal lines. When a player encloses vacant points with boundaries made using their own pieces, they "conquer" that part of the board.

"Go is a game of algorithms. Each move should serve a long-term purpose. You try to lead the opponent into your trap and force them to follow your guidance till they lose," explains Wang Wei, a Go player among the visitors to the exhibition.

"The players' personalities are revealed during the game, and one's weaknesses are exposed to the opponent," she adds. "A decent winner always tries to outplay the opponent by no more than one or two points as a gesture of modesty and respect for the other side."

An oil painting by Dutch artist Ed van der Kooy. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Tu says it was the balance between the black and white pieces, beauty in the strategic placement of the pieces, and the energy flow following each move that inspired artists to create oil paintings, sculptures, digitally generated graphics and silk-screen prints for the showcase.

"I'm fascinated with the fact that the seemingly casual drop of a piece can overturn the whole game of Go. It is the same with art. A spontaneous stroke can change the outlook of the painting," says Zhang Fangbai, one of the artists involved in the exhibition. "You can achieve great rhythm and a sense of melody with free strokes of the brush, which you can also find in the game of Go. I think they both belong to the world of Taoism."


Game Art Vs Go Culture: 2023 China-Netherlands-Japan Invitation Exhibition in Shanghai

10 am-6 pm, May 31-July 21

Jiushi Art Museum, 6F, 27 Zhongshan Dong Yilu, Huangpu district, Shanghai

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