At the end of last week the full-time Visual Arts students at West Dean College visited CASS Sculpture Foundation, located just a few miles from the Visual Arts department, within the beautiful surroundings of the Goodwood Estate. Founded by Jeannette and Wilfred Cass CBE, the Foundation has been in existence for 22 years, modelled on an innovative, sustainable approach to commissioning and displaying large-scale sculpture. Working with both emerging and established artists, CASS provides backing for a wide variety of ambitious, monumental works to be produced, then ensures that all proceeds from sales are shared equally between the artist and new commissions. The semi-wooded grounds of the Foundation contain a constantly evolving collection of some eighty artworks, including many by leading figures in recent and contemporary sculpture. It happened that our visit came just after Wilfred Cass had celebrated his 90th birthday – a few balloons still attached to the ceiling of one of the gallery spaces proved it – so we send our congratulations to him!
Before having time to to wander around the grounds taking in pieces by Eduardo Paolozzi, Tony Cragg, Gary Webb, Thomas Heatherwick, Tania Kovats, among many others, the students were also given access to the CASS archives, a wonderful and unique resource containing a large number of works on paper, as well as original maquettes for all of the sculptures that have passed through CASS during its history. The privilege of being able to look through the racks of large-scale drawings that had supported or accompanied the various sculptural proposals gave a great insight not only into the inner workings of CASS as an organisation working to effectively support new projects, but also a detailed glimpse into the working methods of dozens of different artists. Variously proportioned models, all housed and carefully displayed in neatly-organised cabinets and shelves, displayed workmanship and technical invention in countless different materials – plaster, metal, wood, paper, and so on – many clearly anticipating the intended finish of the final work, others suggestive of wholly different, experimental approaches to work in progress.