It’s been sort of like Groundhog Day for more than two months now.
Almost a season has gone by, and most of us have gotten used to carrying out our routines within the few square metres of our homes, while trying to ignore the fact that the days are mixing together like water in water.
In her collage Days, Olga Fedorova – a Saint Petersburg-born artist who lives in Abu Dhabi – has managed to visually encapsulate this feeling of living across interchangeable days. The collage shows a monochrome photograph of her head layered on a consistent coral backdrop.
She has a hook attached to her lip, and her face is concealed behind a school of indistinguishable fish.
The collage, she says, is symbolic of how time has been moving by in the last few months. "Everything is passing by like a shoal of identical fish," Fedorova tells The National. "It's so easy to be drawn into that routine and start feeling depressed. But there is always a way to keep your chin up. There is a way to find something special in each day."
Fedorova's Days is part of her Quarantine Diary collage series. The project, she says, was "born spontaneously" and became both an outlet for, and a reflection of, the emotions she was experiencing during the lockdown.
Fedorova began working on Quarantine Diary during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. There are 50 artworks in the series to date, with Fedorova posting a new one every day on her Instagram account.
When the pandemic broke out, Fedorova – who works as a food and advertising photographer – had to cancel all her scheduled photoshoots. Her two children, aged six and nine, continued their studies from home.
Her husband, who had travelled to Saudi Arabia for work, is stuck in the neighbouring country.
“Under these circumstances I was feeling I needed to make something to picture what’s going on in my life. Especially since I think my experiences are common to what many families around the world are going through.”
With degrees in both photography and graphic design, Fedorova sought to combine the two disciplines in her Quarantine Diary project.
“I started combining photographs with graphics, merging the real and surreal,” she says. “I'm a fan of minimalism. I’m not using a lot of colours or complicated forms in the collages, so the idea I’m plotting in my artwork can be easy understandable.”
Fedorova says that while her collages are helping her stay hopeful about the future, they are also a way for her to collaborate creatively with her children, and the family dog, Betsy.
Her collage Life shows her daughter sitting on a tidal wave with Betsy beside her, both of them stare up at the enormous mauve jellyfish that Fedorova's son is flying in the olive-green sky like a kite.
“I'm a big optimist, and the colourful themes in the works aim to support others with positive vibes,” she says.
“All the pictures for this project are being taken at home, with my kids, dog and myself as models.”
However, it’s not always easy for Fedorova to convince her children to stay still for a photograph. She says she has to clearly express how she’d like her children to pose for the pictures, and which emotion they need to present.
"They give me a maximum of five minutes," she jokes. "Kids are kids… still, they are the main subjects for the Quarantine Diary project, along with Betsy."
The family adopted Betsy as a puppy from a shelter in Abu Dhabi. “She is two years old now. We are very lucky to have Betsy as member of our family. She is the most wonderful dog I ever knew, and she never refuses to pose for a picture.”
The collage First Award is dedicated to Betsy. It shows the saluki-pointer mix in a regally collared outfit, pinned with a medal that looks like those awarded for bravery and service.
“In a way, the collage is dedicated to all pets in quarantine. Their lives significantly changed after distance learning was implemented. Their calm and relaxed life (when kids were at school) was transformed into a permanent hide and seek game.
"I told my children that I will award Betsy with the First Order Award after the quarantine. She deserves it.”