Margaret Roberts Triangle & Circle 2016, a drawing installation in graphite, wood, nails and the space of visitors, at the June Mostra of the British School at Rome (BSR). Photo: Roberto Apa

This work was titled Triangle & Circle to encourage visitors to turn the wooden compass-arms so as to make the circles that the title claims accompany the triangles that are drawn in graphite on the wall. In practice, the stick leaning against the wall (to enable visitors to move the higher arms and as shown in the lower image) acted as the initial prompt that led people to physically interact with the work. Whichever way it happens, the work is intended to include visitor interaction so as to acknowledge dependency on actual space.

Triangle & Circle is intended to acknowledge actual space because it is designed to represent a building that, like all buildings, occupies and encompasses actual space. This relationship to actual space may be taken for granted when buildings are discussed primarily as buildings. But when compared with artworks—that are generally spatially autonomous in the sense that the actual space in which an artwork is located usually plays no important part in its purpose or meaning—buildings have more in common with spatial artworks like installations than they do with artworks generally.

Triangle & Circle comes out of this interest in the documentation of artworks that acknowledge actual space and time, in particular in ways in which that acknowledgement of space and time can be retained in the reduction that occurs in representation.


Margaret Roberts Floor Plan 2016, tulle over elastic held by nails, at the June Mostra. Photo: Roberto Apa

The building represented in Triangle & Circle is Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, designed and built by Francesco Borromini in the seventeenth century primarily as a building, but also in ways that make it a little like an artwork as well. One of these ways is the use of a system to generate the shape of the cornice for which Sant'Ivo is most known. Triangle & Circle remakes this system at a human-scale to facilitate interaction. This system is proposed by Anthony Blunt in his book on Borromini, and is widely accepted as the method used to design the building. This system uses two triangles overlaid to make a star, the six points of which are modified by circles. This creates a roughly circular shape of alternating 'undulations', a shape reflected in Sant-Ivo's cornice, but that also of course shapes its walls and dome through first being its floor plan.

Thus, as well as acknowledging actual space through visitor interaction, Triangle & Circle also hopes to emphasise the building's temporal openness by representing it at a stage at which its existence is still mainly in the future.

Triangle & Circle is accompanied by Ground Plan, the shape produced by Borromini's system of triangles and circles, waiting in a type of storage state for the later stages, including the formation of the Sant'Ivo cornice which does not appear until the building is constructed.


Location of works in the BSR Gallery 1, with part of David Ryan's Variazoni on the right. Photo: Roberto Apa

Read interview with the artist on the background to these works.

Read interviews with all 7 artists in the June Mostra, and other activities during the last 12 months at the BSR

The works discussed here were developed and made during a 3-month National Art School Sydney Residency in Drawing at the British School at Rome during 2016.