Sitting in twenty-six acres of West Sussex countryside the Cass Sculpture Foundation is a welcoming, accessible, explorable, mostly outdoor gallery of large-scale contemporary sculpture. You don’t have to follow the arrows and you don’t need to ‘get’ every piece to have a good time.
It probably helped that we had ideal conditions. Sunny but not too hot. Other people but not too busy. And a friendly, informative welcome from a knowledgeable woman determined to get through every Cass fact but without being overbearing. So now I know that they are a commissioner as well as presenter of sculpture, that the profit from every piece they sell is reinvested and that the display at Goodwood is constantly evolving. Whilst we were there the ‘permanent’ collection was complemented by works from modern Chinese artists under the banner of “A Beautiful Disorder”.
There’s a lot here to enjoy. I particularly liked “Folly (The Other Self)” by Sean Henry which is almost a physical reinterpretation of the voyeur-style paintings of Edward Hopper. The bright yellow swirling, interlocking shapes of Tony Cragg’s “Declination” are fun and eye-catching, whilst the playful “It Pays to Pray” from Rose Finn-Kelcey gave me no prayer for my 20p. I guess that says something. Diane Maclean’s “Encampment” uses shape and light to play with your perceptions but, for me, the eeriest and most striking work away from the Chinese selection is Peter Burke’s “Host”: shadowy faces emerge from tortured bodies like some forgotten, accusing army.
The “Beautiful Disorder” commissions are all interesting, in a good way. They show a China almost unsure of how to present itself both internally and externally as old meets new and the domestic becomes international. Most obviously in the whirling confusion of Wang Yuyang’s “Identity” monolith but recurring in works like Cui Jei’s silvery, twisted “Pigeon House”. It is an excellent show to catch.
To help you round you get a leaflet that handily (and pictorially) identifies the pieces, the artist and their inspiration. It feels delightfully old school in an age when everyone is sticking it all on an app. Rather like the simple pleasures of seeing art you might otherwise ignore presented so simply and so well.