Vertigo’s Kim Novak comes to Campbelltown

How collective is the idea of fantasy? It’s a question asked by artist David Capra in a new group exhibition at the Campbelltown Art Centre.
Vertigo’s Kim Novak comes to Campbelltown

Renny Kodgers, Hello Stranger, Production still 2017. Photo: Anador Walsh; courtesy the artist

Artist and curator David Capra believes that we live in a world of ‘constructed fantasy’, our lives not too dissimilar to a DJ’s sampling, where a bit of nostalgia is overlaid with glamorous aspiration, and cinematic grandeur jostles with serial TV bling. Under his gaze, everything is punched into Technicolor, and the world as we know it bends and shifts, making room to indulge our greatest fantasies.


Capra has curated the exhibition Sheer Fantasy, which opens this week at Campbelltown Art Centre in south-west Sydney. It brings together 13 artists working across different mediums; many of the art works exhibited are newly commissioned.

Reading through the list of participating artists, the name Kim Novak jumps out – the same Kim Novak who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo, released in 1958. Capra explained that she left Hollywood to pursue painting.

Some 60 years on, Novak’s painting, Vertigo / Vortex of Delusion will be premiered at Campbelltown Art Centre as part of this exhibition. It explores the psychology behind her roles in the classic film, and encapsulates Capra’s idea for this exhibition, which moves between familiarity and fanciful theatrics, seemingly suspending time and drawing on the collective conscious. 

‘We have worked with the New York based architectural firm, 1000 BCE, to create an installation to house her painting and it references the moment in the film when Madeleine, Novak’s character, looks at fictional historical figure Carlotta,’ he explained.

The work encapsulates that moment when we step into character and out of reality, a construction of fantasy that has little to do with cinema and more to do with escapism from contemporary life.

Capra continued: ‘We used the score from the film, which we have re-recorded with the local Campbelltown group, the L’Estro Armonico String Orchestra.’

Novak’s work is exhibited alongside that of LA photographer Polly Borland, Australians Archie Moore, Pat Larter, textile artist Raquel Caballero, Mark Shorter, William Wegman and others, resulting in an eclectic and sensory mix for the viewer.

Sheer Fantasy, Installation View, Campbelltown Arts Centre, 2018, Photo: Document Photography

We live in a world of constructed escapism

When asked whether we take enough time today to dream – to fantasise – Capra said: ‘Artists are encouraged do to so but others are less so. It is interesting how people perceive what is called “creativity”, and what might be “fantasy”.

‘Going through the exhibition felt like a game show at one point, then a theatre space with lit curtains, an MGM film set or a doctor’s waiting room…There are many emotions spaces to move through, and collectively that might be what “sheer fantasy” is,’ he continued.

To illustrate that idea, Capra pointed to a work by Mark Shorter, Hello Stranger (pictured top) which brings the themes and textures of the 1970’s road movie to life. Visitors sit vicariously in a big rig with Renny Kodgers – the archetypal lonesome and chatty traveler, played by the artist – unpacking life’s biggest questions.

Is it real, is it a film, is it a dream? The exhibition allows the visitor to rest for a while in that place of slippage, led by their own connections to the works.  

Sheer Fantasy, Installation View, Campbelltown Arts Centre, 2018, Photo: Document Photography

When asked what that experience might feel like – entering his world of fantasy – Capra said: ‘There will be a level of confusion at first. People will think, “Where am I?” Things aren’t immediately obvious and you have to make sense of the spaces. There are various  sound elements, textures and the scaffolding of sets – again, it plays with that space between the reveal and the showreel.’

Capra said that it has been a very engaged process working alongside the artists, discussing how their work would be experienced and presented, and then feeding that back to architects to design the space.

Learn more about Sheer Fantasy

Each gallery across the exhibition has an architectural element, a kind of filmic-styled backdrop created by Harvard-trained designer and architect, Ivan Ruhle.

One example of that attention to design and detail features three walls whose glitter-covered surfaces host a cluster of Pat Larter's impasto, glitter-surfaced paintings. ‘It’s like entering a galaxy,’ said Capra.

Researching the exhibition Capra visited the San Francisco locations of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, delved into the Fellini Foundation’s archives to view set drawings, and visited the Burbank Disney Imagineering Center  Archive to look back at the 1956 water-ride, It’s a Small World.  He also visited the studio of American artist photographer William Wegman, famous for his portraits of Weimaraners.

Capra exhibits an early work made with his dog Man Ray, Spelling Lesson (1973-74), where he attempts to teach his dog how to spell – a very personal connection with Capra’s own performative work with his dachshund Teena.

Capra has used those international counterpoints to build a story locally. Californian artist Terri Bowden – a member of one of the world's leading inclusive studios, Creative Growth –created a new wallpaper frieze for the exhibition, which blends versions of Fred Flintstone sporting peroxide blonde hair with pop icon Michael Jackson.

Michael Dagostino, Director, Campbelltown Arts Centre, said: ‘We see Campbelltown Arts Centre as a vessel for new ideas and different ways for creative practice to be realised. Being located on the edge of Sydney allows us to think big, enabling artists like David to curate a thought provoking exhibition that challenges perceived notions of the imagination through the use of memory, homely aesthetics and the suspension of reality that film offers.’

Capra has created an immersive experience of constructed escapisms that are strangely familiar, inspirational and allow the imagination to run free. He says that this exhibition suspends time, that it’s intergenerational, and fun.

‘This exhibition got me thinking about how things we create have a life of their own as well as moments when fantasy coincide with the real world,’ he concluded.

Sheer Fantasy will be on show at Campbelltown Arts Centre from 14 April – 3 June 2018.

Visit for details and directions.

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Gina Fairley

Wednesday 18 April, 2018

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

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