Detail from Hypnagogic City #2

This is from the second iteration of Hypnagogic City, which will be on the gallery wall just in time for the opening reception on March 9th. It's been a big technical challenge getting these images rendered on time! 


"Hypnagogic City", New Exhibition at Red Head Gallery this March

My new exhibition this March at Red Head Gallery in Toronto features a follow-up piece to "Future Toronto?"  The show runs from March 1st to the 25th.

"Hypnagogia is the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep. Mental phenomena that occur during this "threshold consciousness" phase include lucid thought, lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.
- Wikipedia

Starting with a publicly available digital model of Toronto, Mathew Borrett has crafted a haunting tableau of the city's civic center as might exist in a parallel universe. We glimpse a present day through a new lense: one constructed of an accretion of imagined structures and the decay of old ones. The prevalent theme is the relationship between the built environment and nature. Taking a maximalist approach, the viewer is presented with a hyper-detailed scene that invites repeated exploration."

The image below is a detail from "Hypnagogic CIty".

Noodling in an Ever-Shifting Procedural Landscape

Here's a couple of recent instagrams I posted. These are details of much larger renders which I'm not quite ready to reveal (until my show in October, at the Red Head Gallery in Toronto).

I plan to print some of them roughly 8 feet x 4 feet, at a crisp 300 dots per inch. This requires coaxing out renders 28,800 pixels wide. I'm constantly bumping into hardware and software limitations. Thankfully I can farm out these huge renders, as my machine alone would take well over a week to get through one.

The process of making these involves a great variety of stages and components, which range from drawing and virtual sculpture to something more akin to programming. I start with a set of elements numbering roughly 300 at last count, which include things like rocks, trees, buildings, abstract forms, etc.. These are then randomly scattered in vast numbers across a given terrain (itself possibly randomly generated).

Each set of randomized elements must follow a set of rules of my choosing. For example, I might say "rocks, you are only allowed to exist at altitudes between 15 and 23.7 meters", or "trees you may only grow on slopes of between 30 and 45 degrees", and so on. The system remains live, and I can change a single parameter and the random arrangement will shuffle itself into a new configuration based on the tweaked rules. I can view previews of the state of the system at any time. For every proper render I do, I flit past several variations that will never be seen again. After enough noodling I'll get to something I like, save the settings and do a medium-sized render (as in maybe 9000 pixels wide) which my computer can render overnight. Based on those renders I will opt to refine some of them further into much larger images. Along the way, the scenes acquire ever more computer-straining bulk, which makes the going quite slow.

On its own, any given procedural system based on a simple set of rules will tend to look obviously artificial. When combined with several others you start to get a rough approximation of something natural. If you look closely you will notice that the whole image consists of the same objects repeated in different configurations.

Working with randomness in this way leads to compositions that I would likely never contrive when drawing. Its more like photographing a landscape - an ever-shifting landscape that exists as a collaboration between myself and randomly emergent patterns - a landscape where I have full control of lighting, atmosphere, and other conditions.

The software I am primarily using to do all this is The Foundry's Modo.

Instagram Collection

I posted a collection of my recent instagrams on the Modo forums. These images are actually just cropped down details of larger renderings, which form the basis of some new work I'm doing.

Marsh Villages

This is a spin-off elaboration of the top-left corner of my "Future Toronto?" illustration.

A detail from same:

My work featured in Drawing magazine

I've been featured in the spring 2014 issue of Drawing magazine (available online here).

The following text accompanies my drawing "Hiding Places":

"There is a long tradition in art of capriccio, or architectural fantasy. But wheras most imaginary architecture rises up, the architectural imaginings of Canadian artist Mathew Borrett often go down, extending underground in fascinatingly detailed cutaway views of interlocking rooms, tunnels, stairways, and halls.

Borrett created many of the drawings in his "Room Series" with size-005 Pigma Micron pens on Stonehenge printmaking paper. His tones are built up with multidirectional hatching, creating rich darks and smoothing the appearance of texture. Those tones are contrasted with key areas of open white, which often represents the earth into which the artist's imagined spaces are carved. Simultaneously playful and spooky, his divided spaces always seem to lead back into unseen depths, leaving the viewer's imagination to define the scale of the structures. There is an Escher-like quality in the suggestion of mazes and secret places in which to get lost.

Borrett studied illustration at the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD University), in Toronto, and works as a visual FX artist for the film and television industries. When he can, however, he takes to ink and paper and carves into the strata of his imagination, leaving intricate pathways to to a hidden world."


More experimenting

Recently I've been doing a lot of digital doodling with various 3D techniques and posting snippets of these on Instagram. I haven't done anything that I consider finished, though I need something for a group show with Red Head Gallery in June, which I'm taking as an opportunity to try something different.

Here are some recent snippets:

Erosion Pattern #2