Interview: Mahlon Todd Williams
Luca Curci talks with Mahlon Todd Williams during MIXING IDENTITIES in Medina Art Gallery, Rome.
“Mahlon Todd Williams is an award-winning Cinematographer with over 20 years of experience in the film and television industry. His reputation for hard work, dedication and artistry combined with a positive attitude has led him to collaborate in all genres from feature films and documentaries to music videos and commercials. Recently, Todd wrapped up his 5th season as Director of Photography on the CW series Legends of Tomorrow in January 2020 as he completed his 34th episode. Todd joined the Explorers Club in NYC as a Fellow International in January 2019. He has won the top awards for music video production in Canada. The slow motion Phantom cinematography won the MMVA “Video of the Year” and the Juno Awards ‘Video of the Year”. He was also nominated for Cinematographer of the Year for that video.
In 2012 Todd completed a series of music videos for Drake, The Weeknd, Wicked Games, High For This, Rolling Stone and The Zone, to showcase their official album “Trilogy” which landed on the Billboard charts at #2 in its opening week. Todd is experienced with shooting formats including HD and film. His work has taken him to several countries throughout the world, including Ireland, South Korea, Chile and Easter Island. A graduate of Concordia University’s Film Program, Todd is currently based in Vancouver, Canada and is a member of the International Photographers Guild IATSE local 669.
Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Mahlon Todd Williams – I am from the tranquil suburb of Coquitlam, just 45 minutes outside Vancouver, Canada. My journey into the world of art and cinematography began at the age of 20 when I made the bold move to Montreal to pursue my passion. Over the course of four years at Concordia University, I honed my skills and embarked on the path to becoming a cinematographer. At 25, I returned to my hometown, Vancouver, where I joined the camera union as a trainee, marking the start of a remarkable 12-year journey as a second assistant camera. These years were transformative, as I had the privilege of working alongside luminaries in the field such as Harris Savides, John Toll, Claudia Miranda, and Elliot Davis. I absorbed their expertise, witnessing firsthand their mastery of light and color in sculpting cinematic frames that captivate audiences. Beyond the set, I channelled his artistic influences into his paintings, often labouring for hours on end, drawing from my reservoir of visual references. The result was a unique body of work that flowed from the depths of my subconscious, creating images that resonated with a profound, almost mystical, connection to the audience.
LC – Which subject are you working on?
MTW – I embark on an ambitious artistic odyssey, with a vision to traverse diverse global landscapes and encapsulate their natural colors within my creations. My mission unfolds as I venture to iconic destinations like Greece and Italy, harnessing the essence of their palettes. From the Mediterranean charm to the vibrant markets of Morocco and the lush rainforests of Costa Rica, I wield a spectrum of artistic mediums, from ink to acrylic and oil paint. Through this unique approach, I explore not only the environment but also the logistical constraints I impose upon myself. The culmination of my journey is an inclusive exhibit, a testament to the vivid tapestry of our world, where each artwork whispers the hues of its homeland.
LC – Among the several techniques you use, which one do you prefer to practice and which of them are most compelling for you?
MTW – In my artistic odyssey, I diverge from the traditional brush, preferring an eclectic array of unconventional implements. Metal, wood, plastic, and glass objects transform into extensions of my creativity, moulding and scraping paint and ink into captivating contours on my canvas. My technique is a tapestry woven from the influences of Gerhard Richter, merging his meticulous precision with the wild splatters reminiscent of Ralph Steadman and Jackson Pollock. I embark on this creative journey in the shroud of night, enveloped in solitude. My canvas, reclined on the ground, invites me to join it. This intimate connection fosters the release of pent-up creativity, allowing it to flow unhindered into fluid masterpieces pulsating with vibrancy. It’s worth noting that these solo nocturnal sessions serve as a therapeutic counterbalance to my daytime role as a cinematographer on bustling film sets, often stretching into gruelling 14-hour days. Painting becomes a sanctuary where I liberate myself from the rigours of group dynamics and the pressures of the cinematic world, seeking to forge a direct link to my inner creativity and letting it cascade onto the canvas, unobstructed and pure.
LC – What do you think about art on social media? Are they turning into the new showcases of contemporary art?
MTW – Today’s technology provides artists with an unprecedented opportunity to reach a vast, global audience. However, within this expansive digital realm, competition for views is fierce. To stand out, artists must refine and personalize their creations, making them distinctive and truly captivating. Yet, despite the internet’s power, I maintain that experiencing art in person holds a unique allure. The connection forged in physical presence is profound and immediate. When you connect with a piece of art in person, it becomes all-encompassing, a shared moment that transcends pixels and screens. This might explain the resurgence of live events, where art’s personal and potent impact takes centre stage, reminding us of its timeless magic. Moreover, enjoying digital art on a large screen within a public setting amplifies its impact further. The blend of human interaction and collective emotional resonance can never be fully replicated through solitary screen viewing. It’s a reminder that, while technology opens new horizons, the shared, visceral connection to art in physical spaces and among fellow appreciators remains a profoundly enriching facet of our creative journey.
LC – What issues do you intend to deal with in the future?
MTW – In the future, my artistic journey will be a quest to deepen the understanding of the profound connection artists share with the wellspring of their creativity. I aim to experiment with diverse techniques in various environments, seeking to tap into the boundless flow of inspiration that transcends traditional boundaries. I’ll explore the mesmerizing power of colour contrast, using it not to evoke a singular emotion but a spectrum of feelings within the viewer. Art’s beauty lies in its openness to interpretation, a timeless quality that enables it to resonate across generations. However, it’s essential to recognize that only in the passage of time does a piece of art gain the potential to connect, and even then, such a connection is not guaranteed. The ultimate strength of a masterpiece is its ability to act as an emotional time machine, bridging the gaps between souls, transcending temporal confines, and enriching the human experience, but this is a power that emerges with the gentle embrace of history.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
MTW – The MIXING IDENTITIES concept of the ITSLIQUID exhibition in Rome resonates deeply with my artistic journey. My creative process mirrors this theme as I navigate the duality of my roles – a cinematographer orchestrating a bustling crew of 80 during the day, enduring marathon 14-hour shoots. Yet, after this tumultuous day, I retreat to solitude, painting late at night. In this quiet sanctuary, I unearth my inner creative voices, blending my contrasting identities.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this event? How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
MTW – Just as this exhibition explores the fusion of identities, my artwork embodies the fusion of my roles, a testament to the harmony achieved when the dichotomy of life and art converges into something truly unique.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event? What do you think about our services?
MTW – Attending the opening of the MIXING IDENTITIES exhibit in Rome was a delightful experience. The gallery exuded a warm and inviting atmosphere, ensuring that visitors never felt overwhelmed. What truly stood out was the efficiency and responsiveness of the team in addressing my inquiries about the logistical aspects of exhibiting my artwork and the associated financial requirements. Their support and professionalism left a lasting impression. My enthusiasm has been piqued by the idea of presenting a solo exhibit with ITSLIQUID. Beyond showcasing my paintings, I’m eager to explore the integration of interactive lighting and projection elements, which could add an exciting dimension to the artistic experience. The collaborative spirit and creative potential offered by ITSLIQUID make it an enticing platform for pushing the boundaries of my art. I eagerly anticipate the possibility of bringing this vision to life in the future.