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INSIGHTS_02 – [b]locked

Surpassing the creative block during the lockdown

Alexis Vasilikos. A sense of space

It has been almost two years since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the whole globe. At this point, it will be redundant to say that this event changed our lives. But it really did. Lockdown had a major impact on a lot of people’s mental health and in general it has been a tough period for everyone, artists included. It is paradoxical that during this time we had so much free time to reflect and create; but we cannot avoid going blank.

Some of us experienced this situation at some point in our careers. The creative block or “the blank canvas syndrome” is when you set out everything to create, but you are not able to get as far as staring at a white sheet of paper without knowing how to start. But good ideas always flourish. During this time we have discovered a lot of artists that were able to surpass this state and develop interesting projects with the existing limitations. Little by little, the restrictions were softened and they have been able to re-explore their (or new) contexts.

The confinement caught Ketevan Gvinepadze in Barcelona, Spain. Her way to confront this solitude period was to observe her personal space from different perspectives. Suddenly, everyday objects became vivid, surreal, and helped her to escape from overthinking.

Space is an introspective observation based on perspective, colour and composition. In her photographs, Ketevan accentuates the presence of ordinary objects which contrast with bright and vibrant colours from different parts of her home. A white bed sheet with a red wine glass resting on it, a piece of cake above a bed burned by a cigarette butt, or a gloved black hand spraying a plant with an odd liquid; are scenes that have a powerful meaning after what we’ve experienced in the last years.

Ketevan Gvinepadze. From the series “Space”, 2021

Can we go back to our previous normal life?

How long are we going to be stuck together?

What am I doing?

A common denominator for a lot of us during this lockdown period has been related to confusion. People questioned what will happen next, without knowing how long the situation will continue. In such a strange state, although people got used to this new normal life gradually, a lot of questions remained with no answer.

Ning Zhou describes this project as a self-portrait created during lockdown in her apartment in London. Everyday she asked herself questions about what was going to happen and if society would support each other and themselves. She wrote down her thoughts and started to photograph her partner and herself at home, giving a visual form of those questions. Using this therapeutic method, Ning Zhou opened up a conversation with herself, trying to look at the camera looking for resonance and asking audiences the same questions. It is an intention to communicate with a real audience which wasn’t accessible at the moment.

Hope to see you face to face soon

Ning Zhou. “What do I do without you?” From the series “Questions I ask myself during lockdown”, 2021

Italy was one of the first European countries to apply the first lockdown measures. People confined themselves in their homes to contain the spread. The world entered in a general stoppage which led everyone stuck in their homes.

The next two months led Gianluigi Cerioli to observe his surroundings more closely, and to think of a way where he could borrow daily elements in order to communicate what was happening in the world.

Basing his project on the objet trouvé, and from the progressive loss of the lockdown measures; Gianluigi Cerioli designed a series of installations with new possible meanings. This process comprises different phases of creation which ended with the photograph. In some way, the physical object, chosen and assembled, is a reproduction of reality and represents an analogy to the reproductive mechanics of photography. Cerioli revisits the objet trouvé and assemblage techniques to find similarities with photography, because as the object is chosen and owned, the reproduced one is captured and owned too. From the outside to the inside of our homes, Gianluigi Cerioli has been able to create a narrative and a framed reality of what happened in his surroundings during the 2020 pandemic.

Gianluigi Cerioli. From the series “Hypothetical Connections”, 2020

Once the measures got softened, a lot of people chose to escape from the big cities. Many had to move to their homelands to seek security, others have sought better working conditions abroad. Mercedes Polo Portillo saw an opportunity in South France. She decided to move temporarily to the land of the vineyards looking for an ephemeral future job in a different country. This decision opened the door to new realities.

Working for a small farm of sustainable production made her reflect about the conditions that millions of laborers from this sector are subjected to. During her time in the vineyards of South France, she worked and learned the process of grape harvest. For her, this contact and time spent with nature sharpens our relationship with senses, it is an approach to our origins and a development of skills that are disappearing. Life in communities has been relegated to extinction or to the practice of small groups, towns have been abandoned due to the lack of opportunities in favour of the main cities. But this pandemic made us consider alternative solutions for a better life quality. We rediscovered that mutual support is one of the keys to human evolution, and now, more than ever, we need to collaborate together and support each other.

Mercedes Polo Portillo. From the series “Vendange”, 2021


Ketevan Gvinepadze (b. 1988) is a visual artist and photographer, originally from Tbilisi, Georgia, and currently based in Barcelona

Her main practice is based on research about gender and politics, building a visual language for a concept which is generally characterized by an autobiographical narrative alongside with recent history of post-soviet country such as Georgia.


Ning Zhou (b. 1996) is a queer artist and only daughter of a Chinese couple, working and living in London, United Kingdom.

Ning Zhou’s work combines photography, literature, moving images and sound. The aesthetics in her works are influenced by many literary books, such as Yukio Mishima’s “Golden Pavilion” and Herman Hesse “Der Steppenwolf”. She believes that love can only come from despair. Therefore, she does not shy away from discussing and reflecting on those trauma, confusion and depression she experienced as an individual during growing up.

All the works she has done so far are inspired by her personal experience, discussing issues such as gender, relationship and mental health. She usually presents them in a form of absurd and joking performance filed with personal characteristics.


Gianluigi Cerioli (b. 1984) is an Italian photographer, graduated in Political Science at the University of Milan.

His background led him to develop a strong interest in geometries and a keen eye for verticality and minimalism. Gianluigi currently works for several architectural studios as a freelance photographer between Piedmont and Lombardy, in Italy. He’s also carrying out a personal research focused on landscape, on the relationship between man and living space and the role of photography in contemporary society.


Mercedes Polo Portillo is a visual artist and photographer based in Bristol, United Kingdom.

Her works covers interior design, nature and lifestyle. Mercedes also runs WMN Magazine, on which she is the Art Director. They launched her first issue for the International Women’s Day 2021, on which their main goal is to create a motivational publication in which women from different backgrounds can understand how to fight for their rights.


INSIGHTS is the new initiative by Conceptual Projects that puts the spotlight on artists’ narratives. Launched first on Instagram Guides, this new feature allows everybody to present their projects based on a defined curatorial line.

In Conceptual Projects, we truly believe that collaboration is essential for success and visibility on these days. INSIGHTS was created to bring together photography based projects that explore similar areas of investigation, initiating dialogues between artists and their projects.

Conceptual Projects started in September 2019 as an online platform which showcases and supports emerging photographers from all around the world. Our aim is to give artists the opportunity to share their work through our Instagram account, and create an online archive for them that is available at our website.

Since 2019 we have been publishing a weekly project in our feed. We also share daily stories carefully curated selecting photographs from our hashtag and based on a themed research.


Images courtesy of:

Ketevan Gvinepadze

Ning Zhou

Gianluigi Cerioli

Mercedes Polo Portillo

You can find us on Instagram and on our website

Text by:

Juan Blasco — Founder & Curator of Conceptual Projects



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Conceptual Projects

Conceptual Projects

Online platform supporting emerging photographers