Enigm (pronounced Enigma) is a Japanese street artist based in the East End of London. His work takes from surrealism and blends objects and images together. Painting on the street he enjoys how his work is able to interact with the public.
“We don’t really have a street art culture in Japan” Enigm tells me. Explaining that there is a graffiti culture but it’s very underground. Muralism, as a natural offshoot of graffiti therefore has never really taken off. For a young artist with ambitions to paint on the street, there are not many opportunities.
Japan to the East End
This isn’t the case in the East End of London. He gets a feeling of freedom here. The fact that lots of places actively encourage artists to paint illustrates the difference in attitude. It’s something that the young artist has embraced. Particularly in the area of Shoreditch and Brick Lane. His surrealistic artworks are becoming commonplace
“I want people to feel strange or slightly odd” he says when describing his artwork. Seeing everyday objects he will think about the kind of image that might go alongside them. All the time then wondering what that combined image could relate to. He tells me how he has been inspired by Magritte and by early etchings from old books.
You can see it in his work. The illustrative style seemingly belonging more to the pages of a textbook from the early 20th century than to modern London. Yet it is this what makes Enigm’s work so intriguing. It’s the ability to be able to look upon an artwork and question particularly when it’s in the public realm.
“The initial idea is quite random really”. Initially seeing something on the street his mind will often link it to something not connected. Except that in the artist’s mind, that’s exactly what it is. The resulting painting or drawing then often combines or takes from both. Creating a kind of surrealist image. “I don’t want people to think it’s nice or beautiful. I want people to think what’s going on. To consider what the connection is between different objects that don’t have any connection”.
“I just wanted to find a place where I could belong” he tells me of his move to London. Being free to be creative in the way that he wants to be it has brought an audience to his work. Painting on the street he will use brushes, treating the wall as he would a canvas at home. People do often stop. Intrigued by the difference and wondering what the meaning might be. It’s just as Enigm might want.
Enigm was interviewed by Stuart Holdsworth as part of our ‘Artists of the East End‘ series. His work can be found across London and particularly in the East End. You can find out more about Enigm by following his instagram.