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Petros Vrellis Knitted Portraits Inspired by El Greco

Petros Vrellis Knitted Portraits

Greek artist Petros Vrellis has created portraits inspired by Spanish artist El Greco using one continuous black thread on a round 28″ diameter loom.

Petros Vrellis Knitted Portraits

Petros Vrellis Knitted Portraits
Petros Vrellis, Knit #1, detail, Limited Edition 2

Exploring a completely new way to knit, he used a digital pattern created by a specially designed algorithm. While there is a lot of computing involved in the process of making these, the final artwork carries absolutely no technology and is done entirely by hand.

This first series of knitted portraits is based on El Greco’s expressive figures:

A few thousand meters of continuous black thread are knitted as straight lines across the circumference of the loom in a pattern dictated by the algorithm.

Christ, detail
Christ, detail
Petro Vrellis, Christ portrait, black thread, aluminum loom

Despite the extreme limitations of the design, the depicted faces are still recognizable, but inevitably appear fuzzy and smudged; a large degree of uncertainty about the characteristics and the emotions of the depicted persons is inducted.

Below are several from the series that are available for purchase, priced at $1990 USD each (prices subject to change)

Petros Vrellis, 1st test knit – Limited Edition 1
Petros Vrellis, 1st test knit – Limited Edition 1 , side view
Petros Vrellis, Knit #2 - Limited Edition 2 of 2
Petros Vrellis, Knit #2 – Limited Edition 2 of 2
Petros Vrellis, Knit #3 – Limited Edition 1 of 2
Petros Vrellis, Knit #4 – Limited Edition 2 of 2
Petros Vrellis, Knit #4 – Limited Edition 2 of 2, side view
Petros Vrellis, Knit #5 – Limited Edition 1 of 2
Petros Vrellis, Knit #6 – Limited Edition 2 of 2
Petros Vrellis, Knit #7 – Limited Edition 1 of 2

Purchase the above here.

Details below provided by the artist

Circular loom
The loom is an 28’’ aluminum rim, with 200 anchor pegs on its circumference.

Knitting pattern
In contrast to conventional knitting, absolutely no knitting is done inside the area of the loom. Instead, the thread is knitted as straight lines across the anchor pegs on the circumference, only. In geometric terms, the thread follows a path of consecutive circle’s chords. Thus, one single thread runs from one anchor peg to another, continuously, for 3.000 – 4.000 times, reaching a total length of 1 – 2 kilometers. Knitting is done by hand, with step-by-step instructions dictated by a computer. The absence of black thread gives a completely white color tone. The tone darkens as the density and the intersections of the black thread increase. Thus, a full grayscale palette (from black to white) is possible. The knit is transparent and can be viewed from both sides.

Pattern generation
The pattern is generated from a specially designed algorithm, coded in openframeworks (https://openframeworks.cc/ ). The algorithm takes as input a digital photograph and outputs the knitting pattern. Over 2 billion calculations are needed to produce each pattern; not much of a load for today’s computers, but definitely an impossible task for the human brain. So, this is a new and unique type of knitting that could not have been implemented a few decades ago, without computers.

Theme and aesthetics
Although any digital picture can be converted to a knitting pattern of this type, portraits are the most interesting themes. Despite the extreme limitations of the design, the depicted faces are still recognizable, but inevitably appear fuzzy and smudged; a large degree of uncertainty about the characteristics and the emotions of the depicted persons is inducted. The first series of knitted portraits is based on El Greco’s expressive figures.

Artist’s Statement
How is it possible to produce a complex portrait from such a limited design? Is our surrounding world “tricking” us the same way? As science evolves, new tools and experiments prove that our world is far more complicated, compared to what we think it is; our senses provide a very thin portion of reality. So, our brains are full of misconceptions and false ideas; our experience of the world is incorrect and incomplete. The project challenges our poor perception of reality and serves as a comment to our limited understanding of the world. Furthermore, it’s hard not to make physical and metaphorical connections to the mythological entities of Moirai (Fates) that controlled the thread of life of every mortal being, from birth to death; human life defined by a complex path of threads..

Short CV
Petros Vrellis was born in Greece in 1974. He holds a MEng in Electrical Engineering and a MA in Art Sciences. He has been working as an engineering project manager in his native Greece since 1999.
As computer sciences open up new ways of expression, he tries to combine his technological background with arts by exploring the potential of new media through digital art and interactive installations. He considers himself more of a “toy-inventor” than an artist; he believes that the most important thing is to find new ways to “play” by experimenting and even by breaking the rules. The main tools for his work are computers, programming languages (c++ and especially the “openframeworks” open source toolkit) and electronics (cameras, microcontrollers,  e.t.c.)

This project challenges our perception of reality and serves as a comment to our limited understanding of our world.

See more of his work here

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