Petros Vrellis and His String Renaissance Portraits

Petros Vrellis and His String Renaissance Portraits

I dig art of all sorts. Old art. New art. Strange art. Illegal street art. Whatever. I love it love it love it. Today’s “art” may or may not be art though. You be the judge. But regardless of whether or not you call it art… I absolutely adore it. Beyond the pale, wig out, adore it.

First, let’s take a peek at one of Petros Vrellis’ latest pieces. Then we can break it down.


Wait. What is going on here? Right. So let’s break it down.

Step 1 – Petros takes a photo of a painting by El Greco of Christ.

Step 2 – Petros then feeds it into a computer algorithm that he crafted

Step 3 – The algorithm tests millions and millions of possibilities and finds the best pattern

Step 4 – Petros takes the output that is in the form of step by step instructions for how to “weave” the painting

Step 5 – The circular loom is covered in almost 2 kilometers of string

Step 6 – Admire said “painting”.

Or is there more going on here? I have reached out to Petros in hopes of interviewing him one day soon. So we shall see. But it is the algorithm that is the real genius here. It crafts a Renaissance style portrait solely using straight lines, which is amazing. And there are many differently people who have done this before if you are curious. You can even create your own digital drawing out on if you’d like. I’ve been playing with that site for a couple years now. So this concept isn’t exactly new. In fact, here is a Linify version of the above image… which is almost an art experiment in itself. Right?

Isn’t that the question? What is art? I personally am moved by these El Greco renditions. But is it because of the use of thread? Or is it the circular composition? Actually, I would probably argue that what is so moving in this piece is El Greco’s original genius. It’s the facial features, the eyes, the cut and angles of the jaw. What Petros has done is to give us a minimalistic hint of the brilliance that is Greco. But is that art?

Or does it even matter?

Can this just be something that is an enjoyable carnival gag and we just leave it at that? 2 miles of line. 10,000 different lines. Oh, and Petros is selling these loom versions of El Greco are about a grand a piece. Is the carnival ride worth $950? Hrm. But if you are having a problem comprehending this idea, and it’s financial worth… maybe this video will help you understand it a bit more.


So what do you think? Is it art? Sure, it is difficult, exceedingly difficult, to physically weave this thing into existence. But, no more difficult than following a dot to dot drawing. But look at these things! So fantastic. Each one gorgeous. Each one a fantastic rendering of a Renaissance portrait.



Personally, I believe technology can render something a new and it still be art. To see something through new eyes, and through a new vantage carries the modern along side the ancient and says something new. For example, seeing these religious paintings carried out through the lens of the modern says something to me. It says that we have discarded the original salvific intent and have kept the original form and the surface beauty. Which speaks to our own downward spiral, and false belief that we can walk away from the need for a savior but not the ritual of religion.

No? At the very least, these weavings could create a dialogue. Even if it is just me talking to myself about how wrong I am.