Alternate Toronto: Artist creates images of city in decaying, dream-like future

A Toronto artist has created haunting images of Toronto in a dream-like parallel universe, where sprawling trees and moss sprout over towering buildings with crumbling walls.

Using a 3D model of the city and a number of photo programs, Mathew Borrett created eerie prints depicting what he says is "a view of Toronto if history were to take its course a certain way."

Borrett said he wouldn't characterize his work as "post-apocalyptic." He said viewers can decide if the art is dystopian or utopian.

"I try to mix the dark and the light and create a world that reflects more of a balance," he said.

"Something that is fully dystopic or fully utopic is just kind of boring. Real life is much more complicated and stranger than that."

Inspired by trip to India

Borrett said part of the inspiration for the project came from a visit to India that he took a few years ago, where he saw old Victorian buildings that were more than a hundred years old. 

"They hadn't really been maintained. They had accumulated over a century with patchy repairs and people were living in shanties on the roof," he said.

Borrett wanted to create something similar but with concrete condo towers. 

"That juxtaposition of what had been a pristine, unified vision and then history took its course ..was so fascinating."

Art on display until March 25

The series is titled Hypnogogic City. It is a sequel to Borrett's previous series called Future Toronto.

"Hypongogic refers to a semi-dream state. I've always been prone to extremely vivid dreams," he said. 

The prints are on display at the Red Head Gallery until March 25. 

​Borrett, who grew up in rural Ontario, just outside of Orangeville, says his upbringing influenced his creations. 

"On one level the work is a manifestation of my urban and rural hybridity," he said.

"One of the dominant themes is nature reclaiming the urban environment."