Canadian landscape or the best video game? Alex McLeod's worlds make you want to live in both

In McLeod's vibrant digital worlds, trees look like candy and grass looks like something you could live in forever. And none of it is real.

Trees look like candy and grass looks like something you could live in forever — and none of it is real

(Alex McLeod)

Toronto-based visual artist Alex McLeod uses digital technology as a playground — it's his interface for exploring nature, simulating landscapes and becoming a creator of artificial worlds (not unlike the designers of the topography in games like World of Warcraft or Diablo). In fact, it's hard for him to stop.

"The amount of possibilities in digital can become overwhelming," he say. "Every parameter is editable and I could edit the colour of the objects, the texture of the objects, the surface of the objects. You could iterate indefinitely. It's like playing god."

Watch the video:

Alex McLeod's impossible landscapes

2 years ago
Artist Alex McLeod shows you how history, video games and concern for the environment all play into his magical worlds. 9:51

McLeod customarily focuses on landscape in his work, but nothing about his versions of the natural world are traditional. He explains, "I think people have to be exposed to new forms of representation of landscape. It is often a dismissed term, where we will think of, like, flea market paintings or cheesy knock-offs of the Group of Seven or something like that. I think it's important that artists that do work in landscape to push it forward and to allow for new meanings and new definitions to be built."

As an artist who lives and works in an urban setting, working in this way also gives McLeod an escape. He sees his digital worlds as "a way to put myself through a portal into somewhere else — somewhere I don't have access to. It can be transformative to a person's space or psyche."

(CBC Arts)

In this short doc, McLeod takes you to Chorley Park, a space he recalls exploring as a kid when he would visit his grandparents' house near Rosedale Valley. "Chorley Park is a really interesting place because at the surface level it's just a boring park in a rich neighbourhood in Toronto that you would have no reason to go to, but it was also the site for Canada's most opulent French Renaissance-inspired palace. It no longer exists, but parts of it and references to it are still there."

This kind of empathy for space — both natural and imagined — is integral to McLeod's work and offers him a way to process and contemplate the environment, its cycles and the interconnectivity of everything that exists within it. He says, "Our environment is something that should really be on everybody's mind. For me, my work about interconnected matter and cycles inherently is about bringing awareness to the environment."

Follow Alex McLeod here.

(Alex McLeod)
(Alex McLeod)
(Alex McLeod)

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT). Watch more videos here.


Priscilla Galvez is a Toronto-based Producer and Director. Most recently, she produced the BravoFACT short film The Emissary and is currently in post-production on a sci-fi action short The Drop In for Bell Media. Priscilla is in development on the web-series Off Kilter with director Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla as well as directing and co-writing the short film Wolf Alice, based on the short story by Angela Carter. Jeff Pavlopoulos is a Toronto-based writer, director and cinematographer striving to encounter the unfamiliar in the everyday. He is currently developing a short series, Secret Chiefs, about the invisible ties that bind us to one another, and the hidden, sometimes dangerous world that exists all around us.