One to Watch

Petros Vrellis’ portraits explore the intersection of art and science

Petros Vrellis combines his technological background with the arts, exploring the potential of new media and digital art. He is primarily interested in the techniques utilized to make his pieces, experimenting with computers, programming languages, and electronic devices. The patterns for his intricately knitted portrait series, inspired by those of El Greco, are generated using a specially designed algorithm, coded in openframeworks computer programming. His video demonstrating the creation of one of these works has millions of views.

Petros is interested in how such a complex portrait can result from a limited design, paralleling our often skewed perceptions of the world around us.

Petros has an MA in Art Sciences from the University of Ioannina and an MEng in Electrical Engineering from the University of Patras in Greece. His works have been featured in international exhibitions, museums, and festivals, most recently at the Museum of Science in Boston, the Alberobello Light Festival in Bari, Italy, and FILE Festival in Curitiba, Brazil.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

The exponential growth of computer technology in the past few decades has been changing our lives dramatically. I want to explore the potential of using modern technology in art-making. The field of “new media” art is relatively empty compared to “conventional” arts, so I usually have to invent my own medium and style. I spend most of my time just experimenting, and exploring new ways of expression, without a specific purpose. Once in a few years, an inspirational idea for a new medium comes up; then I try to turn it to a complete artwork. Only at this stage I investigate possible themes that can fit in the newly discovered medium. So, for my artwork, definitely the “medium is the message”; the content comes second.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?  

The core of my work is based on free exploration; so, many times I found myself feeling tired and lost. A few years ago I read this short quote from Charles Bukowski, which I find comforting: “Somebody asked me: ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.”

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

Most of my work is computer programming; I need to stay completely focused, so I prefer silence. On less brain-demanding phases of work, I really like listening to music.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

I cannot answer this question; any specific answer would violate my perception of the world. I believe that possessing an artwork is a state of mind; the physical object is less important. The pieces of art I love are countless and they have left their mark on me; they are within me without a natural presence.

Who are your favorite writers?

Charles Bukowski, Hermann Hesse, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, David Eagleman. I am fascinated from the ability of writers and artists to demystify life and, on the other hand, to create new myths.

About the Author

Jessica McQueen is Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at