Born in India and raised in Bahrain, 1800.Weirdo or Puja Tiwari is a Dubai-based digital & NFT artist whose work is best described as a creative surrealism inspired by her vivid, flamboyant dreams

Recently I had a pleasure of discovering a new artist Puja, aka @1800.Weirdo at the art event hosted by COYA. I immediately liked her vibrant art which matches her bubbly personality and colorful outfits – exactly how I imagine a contemporary female artist, paving her way in Dubai art scene. After a quick chat, I decided to have a more in-depth interview to learn more about the artist and I hope you enjoy discovering her world as much as I did.

Whats is your creative process like?

Most of my art is inspired by dreams and nightmares I see the night before so my process starts early in the morning. I wake up, head still fresh with the dream and immediately write it down in my dream journal. Because I’m a collage artist, I start searching for royalty-free images that display imagery closest to the dreamscape. I then digitally cut and layer the photos until I’m semi happy with what it looks like. After this I get ready for my day, go to the office, and re-visit the same art in the evening to augment, animate and finish it. While some of my work is dreamy and sensual, a lot of it has elements that some find disturbing like snakes, blood, insinuations of otherworldly abductions or ghouls. This is me staying authentic to myself and the good/bad dreams I see. 

Do you work only in digital or other mediums as well? What software do you use? 

When I first started, which was just a year ago, it was with physical collage on canvas. But the process of cutting and pasting onto an actual canvas was quite tedious and my clumsy self suffered many nick and cuts from the scissor and cutting knife. I then switched to self-learning about digital collage, which opened up a world of possibilities with colours, texture and animation. I use Photoshop, Procreate and Adobe After Effects. 

What are the artworks you are the most proud of and why?  

It has to be my first few pieces that got the attention of the art community and then got minted into NFTs. It was a series of upside down imagery that I created to reflect on how we felt during the pandemic – a play on the notion of how our worlds were upturned in uncertainty. That was the first time I realized that art could be something I could think of doing more seriously. 

Whats is your biggest aspiration as an artist? 

It’s to create and share art that takes the viewer on a surreal experience, to be able to inspire people to look beyond the mundane 3D reality. Eventually I’d like to support creatives by teaching them and make a difference with my art by standing behind and donating to causes that are close to my heart like mental health, zero hunger and animal welfare.  

Could you tell us more about the inspiration behind The Portals for the collaboration with COYA?

Influenced by the mystic tales of Peruvian culture, COYA’s vibrant values and the history of the UAE, my tenacious yet playful NFTs for COYA symbolise the fine line between masculine and feminine. Like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, my pieces are built from the same values and ethos but still boast their own distinctive personality. Adorned with Aztec motifs in tribute to Peru and sand dunes in honour of Dubai’s natural surroundings, her female figure is an ode to COYA Dubai, while the male figure’s nautical theme represents COYA Abu Dhabi’s waterfront position on Al Maryah Island.

Do you believe NFTs have brought more opportunities to you as an artist?

I strongly believe that the face of art has forever been changed with the introduction of NFTs. Initially known as a disruption, I think it is becoming an integral part of art for both physical and digital artists securing our work, taking away boundaries and helping us reach audiences around the world. Art doesn’t just belong to galleries and auctions, it is now decentralised and made accessible to all thanks to NFTs.

What does it mean to be a female artist in the NFT space?
According to stats from last year, female artists account for just 5% of all NFT sales in 2021, stating that the industry is dominated by men. Since then, I am certain that this number has gone up. As a female in this space I can tell from my own experience that I have received nothing but support and empowerment from the Web3 and NFT community. Dubai provides a more inclusive space to thrive as a creative regardless of your gender, given how much effort is being put into bolstering the creative and digital economy in the UAE. I have been able to step up an artist and materialize my dreams into reality. It gives me immense joy to see female artists coming into the scene, shattering stereotypes and diversifying the space while setting legacies for themselves.

What is one question you wish you were asked?

 I wish more people would ask about the process and emotion behind each piece, I’d be happy to explain it. A lot of people assume I just create weird art for the sake of it, but never question if there’s a deeper meaning to it. There always is.

About the artist

Born in India and raised in Bahrain, 1800.Weirdo or Puja Tiwari is a Dubai-based digital & NFT artist whose work is best described as a creative surrealism inspired by her vivid, flamboyant dreams (and sometimes nightmares). She sought out a creative outlet tobalance her life in the corporate world. Being able to arrange colours and slice different elements through collage art gave her the expression she craved -an escape into the world of whimsy, colours and mystique. Through her work creating surreal landscapes, she intends to evoke emotions in the viewer that have not been experienced before, like the feeling of longing for a place that doesn’t exist and missing someone they don’t know. She has exhibited her work in Dubai and Bahrain across variousprestigious exhibitions

See more of Puja’s work on her Instagram @1800.weirdo

Interview by Slava Noor