No Eyelids, No Sleep: Guido Van Helten’s Seljavegur Murals

No Eyelids, No Sleep: Guido Van Helten's Seljavegur Murals

If you’ve been lucky enough to stroll past the Loftkastalinn building on Seljavegur, you’ve without a doubt noticed a striking series of murals on the walls there. One shows a woman staring listlessly into the abyss; another, a heated embrace; the last, one women applying lipstick to a partner. The pieces are based on 1961 photos of an Icelandic production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s masterpiece No Exit, and were created by the Australian graffiti artist, Guido Van Helten

Guido Van Helten

As for me, I am mean: that means that I need the suffering of others to exist. A flame. A flame in their hearts. When I am all alone, I am extinguished.

Guido Van Helten has worked on everything from silos to ruins. His works of realism are emotional, evocative and extreme. Interestingly enough, Helten was asked to do the series after the owner of Loftkastalinn saw Helton painting another mural in Reykjavík—one of the building’s owners Grandfather. He immediately offered up the theatre’s walls in exchange for food and lodging. Happily, Helten accepted and began work.

Guido Van Helten

Hell is other people.

No Exit is an incredibly powerful work. The play details a depiction of hell in which three deceased characters—Garcin, Inez, and Estelle—are punished for their sins in life by being locked into a room together for eternity. Eyelids are paralyzed so there is no sleep. The door is locked. No mirrors. No windows. No darkness. The description within the playbook tells us, “The irony of this hell is that its torture is not of the rack and fire, but of the burning humiliation of each soul as it is stripped of its pretenses by the cruel curiosity of the damned. Here the soul is shorn of secrecy, and even the blackest deeds are mercilessly exposed to the fierce light of hell. It is an eternal torment.”

Interested? Check out a fabulous production of the play from BBC below.

My favourite quote?

You are your life and nothing else.

Guido Van Helten


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