Ildiko Buckley graduated from Chelsea in 2008, having studied the PG Diploma and then the MA Fine Art. Her work often takes place over extended periods of time and involves participation with others; which can be seen in her most well-known piece, a giant, glittery YES sculpture, which was a collaboration with friend and artist Jane Palmer. The sculpture is featured in a new publication by Michael Petry, The Word is Art, a global survey of artists working with texts, words and physical books. We chatted to Ildiko to find out more about the inspiration behind YES, what being featured in The Word is Art means, and what she’s working on next.

Why did you choose UAL/ Chelsea?
Being interdisciplinary in my approach to making work it was really important for me that the Masters I attended would facilitate that and that I would be surrounded by people working across all media.  College is a time for experimentation, you’re not meant to go in with all the answers, Chelsea offered me this opportunity.

I loved the campus it’s like a maze of hidden spaces and I always liked the atmosphere – it reminded me of my BA, a little bit anarchic.

Has your course had an influence on the way you work and the work you produce now?
I knew what I was interested in and the work I was drawn too but I didn’t always have the language or understanding of how to join all those dots together.  Chelsea helped me get to the root of all that and give me a way to develop how I approach making work and researching the topics I am interested in.

YES by Ildikó Buckley and Jane Palmer 2013 The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London image courtesy of Nick Caro Photography

What were the highlights of your time at UAL?
The main highlight for me was definitely the people I got to know and work with there and in some case continue to work with now.  Those friendships have facilitated so many things including my move to Berlin 6 years ago.

Another pivotal highlight was the friendships and working relationships I also forged with the three different individuals who occupied the position of curator of UAL during that time, all of whom had a huge impact on me.  It began by being awarded The Artist and Collectors Exchange Bursary which really enabled me financially to take my place on the course (I had applied to over 40 bursaries in the lead up to starting college) and then developed into great working relationships that gave me an out of my comfort zone 7 hour performance piece show in the UAL gallery, and also the chance to curate of my first London Solo show at Kenny Schachter / Rove in 2012.  They were also responsible for introducing me to the collectors that bought my work then and who have continued to support me in different projects since graduating.

Seeing that my work revolves around people and the ways in which we interact and relate to one another I guess it no surprise that these individuals would be my highlight.

Not surprisingly, YES has been incredibly popular at festivals. Here it is as the Mighty Hoopla in Victoria Park in 2017. Image courtesy of Joseph Daniel Wilson (Instagram @josephdanielwilson)

How did your work YES come about?
The whole idea of how the work came about has actually become the basis for two talks I have given (one in Berlin and one in London) on the Evolution of an Idea using YES as an example of this.

I suppose the definitive moment it began was with an idea between a group of friends; the notion of embracing life to its full measure, optimism, friendship, unity and connecting people through universal emotion.

This developed into the proposal, by myself and friend, the designer Jane Palmer, to make a sculpture to encapsulate that idea which we submitted to Secret Garden Party Festival in 2011.  They then commissioned us to make the first one which was exhibited at the heart of the festival floating on the lake.  From that moment on it took on a life of its own – it became the most photographed piece there and an emblem for the spirit of the festival.

From there a second largescale land-based one was commissioned by Secret Arts and in 2013 went on to be exhibited as a highlight of the Thames Festival touring ten riverside locations, including Battersea Power Station and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.  It continues to be exhibited extensively and has inspired a large community.

For us what was most important is its ability it seems to radiate optimism: and its powerful ability to instil in viewers an expanded understanding of art as energizing and accessible. Even in the present political and economic climate, the work continues to serve as a triumphant tonic of positivity

Talking about YES at Good Girls Eat Dinner in London 2016 image courtesy of Paula Harrowing and GGED.

YES is going to be featured in a book by Michael Petry; how does that feel and what impact will that have on you and your work?
Its incredibility exciting – being enshrined in print means the work will be in art history, that it will survive on long after the sculpture might cease to exist and long after we the artists cease to exist even.

It will bring it to a huge international audience, giving it the opportunity to keep working its magic making people feel joy and connection.  Not to mention that it is being archived alongside the work of so many other esteemed artists including Bruce Nauman, Tracey Emin, Christian Boltanski, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Martin Creed, Jeremy Deller, Gavin Turk, & Rachel Whiteread amongst others. The launch will in London at Blaine Southern and we are both really excited to finally get to see our work in print!

YES, London, Mayor’s Thames Festival 2013. Images courtesy Nick Caro

Can you tell us about a project you are working on at the moment?
The main project I have underway is called Portrait of My Youth which involves me cutting up my 12-year pristine collection of the iconic magazine The FACE (from the years 1992 to 2004).  After reading each issue one last time, cover to cover, I take it apart to create one poster-sized collage, distilling the imagery including fashion, art, music, clubbing and advertising down to one large-scale piece (70cm x 100cm).  It is a look at social history, youth culture especially in the time pre worldwide internet usage and mobile phones when a monthly publication held a weight to connect you, where ever you grew up with other like-minded people.

I am sharing the development of the work on Instagram and through that have connected with the Art Directors, writers and also the creator of the magazine (along with Smash Hits and Arena and Arena Homme) Nick Logan. He has been really supportive of the project and loves what I am doing with it which is just an honour.  We met up last month when I was back in London and he took me along to an event where I met lots of other people who worked on the magazine over the years.  Honestly, for me it really was meeting a hero, meeting lots of heroes in fact!

From the series Portrait of My Youth 70 cm x 100 cm. Left – Pop Stop, 2018 all images taken from the FACE magazine Volume 3 Number 46 from November 2000; Right – Basement Snacks, 2018 all images taken from the FACE magazine Volume 3 Number 53 from June 2001.

What has been your greatest achievement?
I guess for me my greatest achievement is always the work I am making at the moment, so for me, it’s my current work with The FACE magazine for Portrait of my Youth, however, I am always very proud of YES and how great it continues to make people feel.

Show Me the Bunny, 2018 from the series Portrait of My Youth 70 cm x 100 cm all images taken from the FACE magazine Volume 3 Number 42 from July 2000.

What is next for you?
I am working on a series of further shows with my fellow Chelsea Alumni the artist Amy Stephens; we aim for these to take place in various European capitals over the coming years and to involve different artists at each stage.  We hope to work with UAL alumni of ours and to perhaps use that as a springboard to meet other locally based artists.

There is also the possibility of something coming to fruition in New York which would be brilliant – and who knows where that could lead, YES has a wonderful way of opening up little doors where ever it goes.

Finally, I am working to finish the first 12 collages from Portrait of My Youth which will be shown in London next year so watch this space!

You can follow all of Ildiko’s current projects on Instagram 

The Word is Art by Michael Petry is published internationally by Thames&Hudson on 13 November.