Arlo Mountford / United Kingdom/Australia b.1978 / The Folly (still) 2007–09 / Three-channel digital animation with four-channel audio (uncompressed AVI file and uncompressed WAV file on hard drive): 9:00 minutes, colour, sound / Purchased 2009. The Queensland Government’s Queensland Art Gallery Acquisitions Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist


The Folly 2007–2009

Not Currently on Display

In The Folly, Arlo Mountford animates three paintings by sixteenth-century Flemish master artist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525–69): The hunters in the snow 1565, The harvesters 1565 (two of five surviving works from a series depicting the seasons of the year), and Landscape with the fall of Icarus c.1558.

Mountford sets in motion the action implied in each painting, which occurs successively as the soundtrack leads the viewer’s attention from one animation to the next. The Folly makes many references to art history, contemporary culture and the artist’s own practice.

The title refers to the elaborate, but purposeless, architectural embellishment, or follies, built in aristocratic gardens, often to keep the workforce occupied.

The title also refers to the fall of Icarus, which Bruegel famously depicted as a relatively inconspicuous detail in the foreground. Bruegel instead focuses on witnesses to the event — the ploughman, shepherd and angler in the account by the classical poet Ovid. In a final comic touch, a stick figure drops from the sky, as though the artist acknowledges the folly of his own ambitious project.

Born in 1978 in Honiton, England, Mountford arrived in Australia in 1983. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2002. Mountford lives and works in Melbourne and has exhibited regularly since finishing his studies.

In 2015, he completed two works as a major commission for the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. In 2007, Mountford was awarded the ABN AMRO Emerging Artist Award and completed a residency at the Frank Mohr Instituut, Groningen, Netherlands. In 2012, he completed a studio residency in Japan with a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts.