Icelandic Graffiti: The Best Street Art Reykjavik Has To Offer
For a small country, Iceland has had a surprisingly large impact on the world of art. Abstract music, painting and film distinct from even its closest neighbours. For Street Art Reykjavik, the capital city, has become a hub. Here are some of the highlights of what it’s produces.
While she spent time in Berlin honing her craft, Sara Riel returned home to Iceland and quickly established herself as a favourite in the scene. Her displays are common in the National Gallery of Iceland but her murals are some of her most interesting work. She balances her style against themes of Icelandic culture. The slightly fantastical elements of Iceland’s history that provided inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien provide an influence again to her pieces.
Van Helten pretty much uses his art as an excuse to travel around the world. The Australian artist works largely in portraiture and creates huge murals of people from the areas he travels to. His intention is to create something that people can identify with. His time in Iceland produced some incredible results and came as an inspiration to artists there. While he was there he created pieces based on photographs given to him by local people as well as work on a theatre painting actors who had starred in productions in the building.
He didn’t hang around long but he left an impact.
A country as small as Iceland doesn’t have a lot of room for division. As a result, the gallery and street art crowds share a lot of overlap. Halldórsson represents this better than most. He works between brush and spray painting and divides his time between gallery focused work and outdoor murals.
Hjartagarðurinn (Heart Garden)
The closing of The Heart Garden Park was one of the biggest knocks to the street art Reykjavik had been producing. It was one of many places closed to make way for construction work that was cancelled during the recession. After the skatepark closed, it left Graffiti artists in the city with a limited amount of space to work in. Not to be beaten, they started rethinking where they put their art. The obvious choices were all made, pieces on plywood boards around the city. They didn’t stop there though. It’s not uncommon to see pieces by some of Iceland’s biggest artist adorning the sides of vans or restaurant menus. It’s a testament to the city’s respect for its artists that graffiti and street art pops up so often. Despite the setback that losing Heart Garden was, it hasn’t killed the scene.
One of the artists who has capitalised most on the extended freedom artists have had since Heart Garden was closed. He puts out some constant high quality work but by being in a place as small as Iceland has remained low key enough that you can still see his work on walls and in cafes all around the city.
His work combines traditional Icelandic styles with American Graffiti producing some distinct pieces. Outside of his murals, his prints echo different influences. Japanese traditional line work and animals distinct from his work with Iceland’s native fauna.