Born in Greece, with a background in Electrical Engineering as well as Art Science, artist Petros Vrellis has a passion for creating interactive installations that blend art and technology. His latest project is a mesmerizing re-imagining of traditional handicraft.
Using a 28″ aluminum-rimmed loom, Petros runs a single thread from one anchor peg to another to create just the right density and darkening at precise intersections. The end result is a detailed image that emerges from 3000 – 4000 continuous loops (or 1-2 kilometers of thread)!
While Petros is following a set pattern developed from a computer-generated algorithm, as you can see in the time-lapsed video above, the step-by-step process is all done by hand. We had the chance to speak with Petros about his experimental process and why hand-made work still has a place in the digital age. Check out the full interview below!
An Interview with Petros Vrellis
Booooooom: Is this really knitting? Why did you choose “knitting” for this particular project?
Petros Vrellis: Yes, this is real! But maybe I should have used the term “string-art”, which is more appropriate (sorry, but english is not my native language). Everything started about 10 months ago, when I was experimenting with an algorithm that produces photorealistic collages. I realized that the simplest collage part is a plain straight line. Then I tried to figure out, what can be achieved by using only straight lines. I tried various setup for the pegs and ended with the circular setup that can be build in real life with a circular loom.
Booooooom: You have Master’s degrees in both Engineering and Art Science. Can you talk a bit about how you see art and its relationship to technology? Why is blending them together meaningful to you?
Petros Vrellis: As humankind, for hundreds of thousands of years we make art using the materials that are available to us: rocks, wood, colors, etc. Furthermore, many artworks were built from “exotic” materials. Using modern technology is the next natural step. It is obvious that new media offer new ways of expression.
Booooooom: The patterns you follow were created using openFrameworks and couldn’t actually be calculated without a computer. Why work by hand at all? Why not have the whole thing be computer generated?
Petros Vrellis: I really liked the idea of having a real object that you can feel and touch. Furthermore, a computer screen is not enough to provide all the details, and it’s possible that someone will think that the computer image is just a trick, and that the specific design is impossible! (I’ve heard this as a comment, too many times so far!)
Booooooom: Are there any projects or ideas that you’d like to pursue but the technology isn’t there yet?
Petros Vrellis: I am fascinated by the potential of artificial intelligence. I am sure that in the next few years we will be shocked from the rise of “machine-creativity” level. I’d really love to work on it, but my knowledge is very limited, and so is the computer horsepower available for this stuff, at least for now.
Booooooom: You consider yourself a “toy-inventor” more than an artist. Why is playfulness so important to you and the work that you do?
Petros Vrellis: Playfulness and laugher is the easiest way to change the world! The power of (good) comedy is unsurpassed. Playing and laughing help us overcome rules and habits that keep us behind. For my work, playfulness is connected with creativity; you cannot build anything new, unless you forget the art rules of the past.
Booooooom: Your stuff involves a lot of experimentation. Have there been projects or things you’ve tried that didn’t work out? How do you stay motivated when things aren’t working?
Petros Vrellis: Most of my projects don’t work out! But joy does not come out of success, joy comes out of exploration. Like Greek poet Konstantinos Cavafy wrote in his poem “Ithaca” (Ithaca was Odysseus destination): “When you depart for Ithaca, wish for the road to be long, full of adventure, full of knowledge”.
Petros’ Interactive Animation of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”
Booooooom: What inspires you?
Petros Vrellis: Inspiration works in mysterious ways. It comes completely unexpected while working on even the most irrelevant projects. I just try to absorb any useful info I can get (from books to visual arts), and hope that someday my brain will generate a nice idea, that combines the accumulated knowledge.