Mathew Borrett at Red Head Gallery

In Mathew Borrett’s solo exhibition at The Red Head Gallery, A Break In The Clouds, archival inkjet prints of landscape views are combine the real world with unreal elements and perspectives. Densely packed architecture and thriving natural environments are the fundamental components, but the perspectives give viewers a sense of an apocalypse. In fact, there are no human beings or animals in most of his works. The well-built cities and the endless railways seem more likely a relic from human civilization.

Installation view of Mathew Borrett, A Break In The Clouds at the Red Head Gallery. Photo: Vivian Sun

Borrett combines distinctive architectural styles from various historical eras and faraway countries in his imaginative landscapes. Ancient Greek temples, high Gothic-style towers and oriental buildings are captured in the midst of being torn apart and recomposed into new, fantastical sites. Every cityscape is rendered like an isolated island, the infinite water connecting high-density urban areas. The honeycombed-like architecture frequently appears in his work. The ‘compacting’ sensation of space closely resembles our existence in the real world. We are all like worker bees who are being packed in skyscrapers.

Mathew Borrett, Dinas Y Goedwig, 2021, archival inkjet print, 30’’ x 22’’. Image courtesy of the artist

Gibraltar Cove depicts a small town on a bay surrounded by dead coral. This work seems to be different from the others with its melancholic atmosphere. There are also more realistic details like the lighthouse and the warm light radiating from the houses, as well as the grounded fishing boat. The nature in Borrett’s Hypernurnia series is always formidable. This one provides the viewers with a possibility for the co-existence of man and nature.

Mathew Borrett, Gibraltar Cove, 2021, archival inkjet print, 23’’ x 17’’. Image courtesy of the artist

Working for the TV and film industry, Borrett’s work contains a strong sense of the cinematic view. I believe that his illustrations could be a continuous narrative about the decay of mankind, as the huge amount of water and infinite greenery may imply no humans are present. In Ynys Sfferau, an enormous extraterrestrial sphere has landed on earth in distinct contrast to a small town next to it. The sphere itself reminds me of the biblical Third Day when the Earth was no more than a sphere before it was covered by soil so plants could root and grow. It is like a womb, pregnant with many possibilities as well as dangers. The shadow on the water is also out of context in this otherwise realistic looking landscape that we are seeing from above, as though from the spaceship that just dropped this sphere. The oppression from the details and the endless landscape view is compelling.

Mathew Borrett, Sfferau, 2021, archival inkjet print, 30’’ x 35’’. Image courtesy of the artist

In Between The Storms, the layering architecture seems to be built on an isolated island in the middle of the sea, and the moss coats everything, even the outer walls of the buildings. The collapsed rusty signal tower at the lower end of the small island, among other details, seem to suggest that this place may frequently be completely covered by water and what we see now is the scene at low tide. Borrett’s series of digital renderings is a manifestation that no matter how cities are manufactured by mankind, nature will not remain repressed.

Mathew Borrett, Between The Storms, 2021, archival inkjet print, 30″ x 35″. Image courtesy of the artist

In Stranded, the outlandish stone construction with two huge trees at the top is more overwhelming with the deep undertone Borrett set for the work. This is one of the few works that have a human-like creature as the focal point, with a glowing body, standing silently on a pier extended from the island. I can not tell if he is a real human being, a lost soul or an alien who is trapped in this isolated island — the only expression it brings to me is of infinite loneliness.

Mathew Borrett, Stranded, 2021, archival inkjet print, 35’’ x 25’’. Image courtesy of the artist

Throughout his series, with his unmistakable style, Borrett tells stories where all the details are important. His emotive and unique perspectives are powerful, as it creates a new dimension of our original world.

Vivian Sun

*Exhibition information: Mathew Borrett, A Break In The Clouds, September 22 – October 16, 2021, 401 Richmond Street West, Toronto

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