Gardening: On Goodwood form

A flash of inspiration turned a wild woodland garden at Hat Hill Copse into a sculptor's paradise.
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The Independent Culture
Driving along the high flint walls of Goodwood Estate in Sussex, you come to an unexpected sight: electric gates flanked by two gigantic constructions. On one side there is a set of steel steps and on the other two white, wedge-shaped objects. This is the entrance to Sculpture at Goodwood and the aforementioned works are by Sir Anthony Caro and Nigel Ellis. It is also the entrance to the home of Wilfred and Jeannette Cass who have built up Sculpture at Goodwood over the last eight years. They have invested a great deal of their own money in commissioning large outdoor pieces from British sculptors, which they place in the 20 acres of woodland surrounding their Bauhaus-style home.

Their name is being heard increasingly in conjunction with other projects. In January, at Art 99, the London Contemporary Art Fair, they launched the Sculpture at Goodwood ART2000 Commission Prize offering up to pounds 30,000 in costs for fashioning the winning sculpture. A project to place sculpture on the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in association with the Royal Society of Arts is also under way. Pieces by Rachel Whiteread, Mark Wallinger and Bill Woodrow will successively be placed on the plinth over the next two years, before being shown at Goodwood.

Sculpture at Goodwood was begun in a flash of inspiration. In 1989 the Casses went to see the house at Hat Hill Copse and bought it within a few days. "We fell in love with the place," explained Wilfred Cass. "The grounds were solid woodland then, but we had a few outdoor sculptures including a Frink horseman and they looked so magnificent around the house that we thought we must have more."

They decided to concentrate on British contemporary sculpture. "There is so much good sculpture in this country. It comes out of the Hepworth, Moore influence - they both had a lot of assistants, many of whom have been teachers for this present crop of young sculptors."

The Casses commission a sculpture and then provide the money for the cost of making it. "We say to the artist we would like to commission something that has been your dream. We are acting as a catalyst by enabling them to make very large pieces and in this way we will help to move people's careers on."

You begin your walk at Hat Hill Copse by passing between an enormous pair of outstretched hands sculpted in bronze by Glynn Williams. They form a gateway to the gallery and reception, a timber and glass building designed by Craig Downie Associates. The eastern wall of the gallery, directly opposite as you enter, is glass panelled, giving a sweeping view through the woodland to Allen Jones's Temple, a pavilion surmounted by a female figure covered in yellow and blue mosaic tiles. The opposite wall of the gallery has a set of screens providing access to the latest CD imaging systems. The CD-Rom library at Sculpture at Goodwood records the work of every sculptor who has shown a piece there. Their website, (www.sculpture.org.uk) has around 5,000 pages, providing one of the main sources of information on contemporary sculpture.

Outside you find a landscape carefully managed to achieve just the right level of wilderness. The Casses believe that sculpture is best seen outside where there is a constant interplay with the landscape, the weather and the seasons, subtly changing by the moment.

Woodchip paths or mown rides lead you through the trees; thuja and birch entwined with ivy are interspersed with other species such as beech and eucalyptus. You can't see most of the sculptures until you are almost upon them because, even in winter, they are well concealed. Each work is arranged so that you meet it individually, though you can sometimes catch sight of another in a clearing or at the end of a path.

In a glade which opens out onto the Sussex countryside looking towards the sea, stands Bill Woodrow's Endeavour: Cannon Dredged from the First Wreck of the Ship of Fools. At first it resembles a real cannon until you look more closely and start to interpret its curious construction. At the junction of two pathways, you are confronted by Nicola Hicks's Recovered Memory. Two bronze figures, a whimsical child and a mysterious human creature with a wolf's head, caught in an encounter heavily charged with meaning.

William Furlong's steel Walls Of Sound emits eerie noises into the woodland. Stephen Cox's Granite Catamarans on a Granite Wave transports you off to a billowy sea.

There are about 40 sculptures placed in the copse at Hat Hill and these are in a constant state of flux. When a sculptor creates a piece for Goodwood the agreement is that it can be shown there for three years. At the end of this time many of the pieces will have been sold as Goodwood now attracts curators and collectors from around the world.

Sculpture at Goodwood, Goodwood, W Sussex P018 OQP (01243 538449). Open March-Nov Thurs, Fri, Sat 10.30-4.30 Admission pounds 10, Students pounds 6

Outdoor sculpture can also be seen at: New Art Centre Sculpture Park & Gallery, Roche Court, East Winterslow, Salisbury, Wilts SP5 1BG (01980 862244); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bretton Hall, West Bretton, Wakefield WF4 4LG (01924 830302); The Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden, Standon Lane, Ockley, Surrey RH5 5QR (01306 627 269); Grizedale Forest Park, Grizedale, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 OQJ (01229 860373); Stour Valley Art Project, Kings Wood, Challock, Kent (01227 458759); Chiltern Sculpture Trail, Cowleaze Wood, Watlington, Bucks (01865 723685)

Anna Pavord is away

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