This artist created a stunning view of Toronto’s future and we can’t look away



There are few words that can truly capture the beauty of Mathew Borrett’s vivid imagination and perhaps that’s why it’s best depicted by the hyper-detailed images he brings to life. As an artist and resident of Toronto, Borrett has re-imagined the city through the lens of an alternate universe in which nature has reclaimed today’s familiar urban sites.

Mathew Borrett

His most recent work, a follow-up to Future Toronto titled Hypnagogic City, was named for the state of consciousness between dreaming and wakefulness that is attributed to lucid dreams. The stunning pieces – often dreamlike – catch the viewer’s eye with striking imagery and keep that eye fully in their grasp with incredible detail. Even for the artist, creating these works of art is an invitation to a whole other world.

“The process is highly complex and diverse. It’s all digital, and involves everything from model making and sculpting to photography and painting.” Borrett says, “Often, it’s very tedious, sometimes very fun, and often requires a lot of waiting.”

Mathew Borrett

The result of his hyper-detailed approach is a series of landscapes that are a joy to explore. But much more than that, his pieces have the feeling of a living, breathing environment and sometimes even experience a change of seasons. Like the alternative versions of a piece in which the CN Tower has toppled in front of the Rogers Centre and a new city flourishes among the ruins.

“I just keep going until I run out of time. I could always refine and add more detail. Having a deadline is very helpful, otherwise I would never ‘finish’ anything.” Borrett says of the pieces he’s revisited, “I usually have a basic idea, but mostly it’s an evolving thing that sometimes surprises me.”

Mathew Borrett

As for where the artist draws his inspiration? He says that there is more than one way to answer that question. “I’ve always been into futurism and science fiction, as well as ancient history and the ruins of ancient civilizations. It’s also as simple as finding inspiration in both the urban environment and the natural environment.”

Having grown up on a farm in rural Ontario, Borrett spent his childhood creating new things out of whatever he could find. “I’ve done many canoe trips in Ontario,” He says, “and taken much inspiration and beauty from things like rotting stumps in the forest covered in fungus.”

The environment that has surrounded him throughout his life has served as a major inspiration and in turn he has moulded that environment in his own way. His re-imagining of the city explores the rigidity of man-made structures and the relationship between the fixed-right-angle grind of urban life and organic flowing beauty of nature.

Mathew Borrett

“Our current relationship with nature is very much shaped by our industrial practices, and is thus often a brute-force standardized approach to building.” Borrett says, “In this future I’ve imagined, large scale industry has gone away, to be replaced by a much more decentralized small-scale use of technology, with more variety of application. A mix of low and high tech.”

Mathew Borrett

He’s even suggested animations as a next step to really bring this bustling new world to life, but in the meantime, we’ll enjoy getting lost in the stunning scenes he’s already created.

Borrett’s latest exhibition, Hypnagogic City, can be seen at the Red Head Gallery in Toronto until March 25th, 2017.