Petros Vrellis: Greek Artist Recreates Renaissance Portraits

Petros Vrellis' knitting pattern inspired by El Greco’s Christ.
Petros Vrellis' knitting pattern inspired by El Greco’s Christ.
Petros Vrellis’ knitting pattern inspired by El Greco’s Christ.

Greek new media artist Petros Vrellis is revolutionizing conventional knitting converting El Greco’s famous portraits, consistently admired for their naturalism and psychological insight, to sophisticated knitting patterns using only a ring with pegs and a single thread. Although a lot of computing is involved in the process of remaking the Renaissance paintings of Greek artist Domenikos Theotokopoulos, widely known as El Greco, the final artwork is done entirely by hand, carrying absolutely no technology.

The loom Petros Vrellis uses is a 28’’ aluminum rim with 200 anchor pegs on its circumference. One single black thread is knitted as straight lines across the anchor pages for about 3,000 to 4,000 times in a pattern dictated by a specially designed algorithm, reaching a total length of 1 to 2 kilometers. “The pattern is generated from a specially designed algorithm, coded in openFrameworks. The algorithm takes as input a digital photograph and outputs the knitting pattern. Over 2 billion calculations are needed to produce each pattern,” Vrellis explains.

A series of Petros Vrellis' knitting patterns inspired by El Greco’s portraits.
A series of Petros Vrellis’ knitting patterns inspired by El Greco’s portraits.

His work aims to challenge our current perception of reality and limited understanding of the world. The new media artist firmly believes that new scientific experiments and tools could be used to successfully prove that the world we live in is far more complicated than we think.

Vrellis’ art has inevitable physical and metaphorical connections to Moirai (Fates), the mythological entities, which in ancient Greece, were believed to control the “thread of life” of every mortal being.

Born in Greece in 1974, Petros Vrellis holds degrees both in Electrical Engineering and Art Sciences. The talented artist has participated in various art exhibitions since 2009, offering intricate, interactive, and visually pleasing installations that blend technology and art in a thought-provoking way. Below you can watch a time-lapse video of Petros Vrellis’ experimental knitting project.