Long conveyor II
born Australia 1968
Long conveyor II (necklace) 2020–21
flameworked borosilicate glass, titanium, silver
The creation of this work was supported through Creative Victoria’s COVID-19 Strategic Investment Fund, 2020
This survey provided the opportunity for Blanche Tilden to make a second version of a major 1997 work, Long Conveyor, created for her first solo exhibition at Gallery Funaki in 1997 and now in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, United States of America.
Long conveyor II is a five-metre long new version of Tilden’s 1997 glass, titanium and silver ‘miniature’ conveyor belt, and was commissioned by Geelong Gallery in 2020 with funding provided by the Victorian State Government through Creative Victoria as a strategy to support artists and their practices through the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the passage of time, the meaning of a long conveyor has changed and developed. Tilden’s 1997 first version was created to explore the relationships between the hand made and the machine made, and repetition (or repeated component parts) and mechanical movement.
Both works articulate jewellery as conceptual sculptural object, and in these major statements, Tilden’s abiding fascination with materiality, movement, precision, industry, value (and changing value), and with jewellery and its relation to the body, coalesce.
New layers of meaning have attached to Long conveyor II in the long process of its making. The work reflects the history of Geelong as a major industrial manufacturing centre, and the city’s valuing of contemporary design through its 2017 designation as a UNESCO City of Design. In the making of the work, 21st century industrial processes meant that the titanium bars could be laser cut rather than the hand-cutting required in the 1997 version. Each glass cylinder on the conveyor, however, had to be individually cut and flame-worked, as did each of the silver axles connecting each cylinder to the titanium links. Long conveyor II is a labour of love, but a work born utter discipline and technical brilliance.
Long conveyor II lends itself to metaphor. Made during the Covid-19 lockdown, the hundreds of small glass cylinders in this work optimistically echo the millions of glass vials of vaccine running off laboratory conveyor belts to be shipped around the world. Science and industry, technology and materials continually inspire the ways in which Tilden is able, through her work, to make intellectual, emotional and tangible connections between herself as maker, and the wearers and viewers of her jewellery.