The origin of Ping Pong dates to the Victorians when upper-middle class families decided to take the lawn game of tennis inside. A bit of light entertainment after a splendid dinner, guests would use the dining room table to bounce small ping pong balls across in a hope to get the other player out. The sport itself evolved and took on an array of different names, most commonly “Table Tennis”, but the principle stayed the same.
Now, like so many other sports it has been immortalized in art for all the world to remember, some even lending themselves to the more abstract eye. Most traditional paintings show two players either end of the table volleying a ball to each other, some rather realistically the art of motion is something that is quite tricky to capture but with a sport that is played in such small proximity, it seems that it is a better subject to show such movement (Example: a player play well using the best paddle). Often, however, players are not painting in a realistic tone, but more of a general wash of color as the focus on the painting is on the table, the ball or even the small paddles used in the game. Bold colors are used to attract the viewers’ attention, the signature pillar box red of the paddle is always a reference for what the painting is of. It is also interesting to note that the majority of paintings show the players to be well-dressed: wearing smart trousers and polo shirts with jumpers on, almost communicating that it is a gentleman’s game. This type of artwork can normally be found within the walls of small village cafes, or seaside art galleries, a small niche of work that is only eye-catching for a select few. The more realistic and vintage styles of paintings, however are much more likely to grab your attention, due to their lavish exploration of not only the game of ping pong itself but the setting of a Victorian dining room with ladies and gentlemen alike engaging in a light afternoon of friendly sport.
Photographs of the sport are much more easily acquired although not in so much depend on the art market. Photographs gather the true feeling of the player as they serve or volley in a game, giving an almost pained look on the subject of the picture. Now the subject has changed from the game to the player themselves and it is quite striking the way in which someone can contort their body to make a shot and how well a photographer can time their camera to just capture that very moment, where you’re not sure if the player has broken their arm or just made an unbelievable shot to win the game. You can’t compare prices for these moments captured happy faces because of victory. Either way, the sheer concentration and determination to win at a game that started out as after dinner entertainment is something that brings the photographs to life, as well as the moments of pure genius when the photographer is able to bring a fast-moving world to a halt in one click of a button.