A tribute: HR Giger
An iconoclast to the end, HR Giger changed the industry he worked in forever with his dark arts and unapologetic visions. We pay tribute to the artist.
When Hans “Ruedi” Giger died from a fall at his Zurich home on 12 May, aged 74, the world lost a visionary who had made a unique impact on popular culture.
Giger won an Oscar in 1980 for his work, including his xenomorph design, for Ridley Scott’s film Alien. Yet his art influenced more than Hollywood, and spread into the worlds of interior design, sculpture and tattoo art.
“For me,” says film concept artist Wayne Haag, “HR Giger was the perfect example of an artist being true to their vision. And that vision was so unique, so strong, that no amount of design-by-committee employed by the film industry could dilute it. His work remained intact from concept to screen.”
Born in 1940 in Chur, Switzerland, Giger studied architecture and industrial design in Zurich. He graduated in 1970, and soon began producing art that featured dreams, nightmares, naked desires and the cold brutality of machines. His ‘biomechanic’ paintings stand at the crossroads of organic matter and mechanics.
“Many of his ink and airbrush works just stick in your head,” says comic artist Andy Brase, also familiar with depicting the darker side of things. “Giger had such an original style and voice through all of his art, that it's hard not to instantly recognise his designs.”
It was the ability of this art to sear itself into people’s minds that led to his most famous work. A Spanish friend of his was at the surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s house and brought some of Giger’s work. An impressed Dali passed it on to filmmaker Alexandro Jodorowsky, which led, in 1975, to Giger creating concepts for the filmmaker’s
His vision was so unique, so strong, the industry could not dilute it. It remained intact from concept to screen
doomed version of Frank Herbert's grand sci-fi novel Dune.
As the production of Dune collapsed, scriptwriter Dan O’Bannon headed back to Los Angeles. Giger’s startling visions stuck in his mind, and he called upon them when he started writing his next project – Alien.
Pure movie monster
Looking at Giger’s 1977 art book The Necronomicon, it’s amazing to think that these sensual yet hideous works could ever make their author a world-famous artist. But it was exactly these images that inspired director Ridley Scott to fly to Giger’s Zurich home and convince the artist to work on Alien. The result is one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time.
Yet even if Giger had never worked on Alien, his art would still have been seen by millions of people. His art has adorned Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery (1973), Debbie Harry’s LP KooKoo (1981), and Dead Kennedys’ Frankenchrist (1985). Two bars bear his interior design in Gruyères and Chur, Switzerland, myriad tattoos have been inspired by his work, and he created many canvases in airbrush and then later in pastels.
People he worked with also remember HR Giger the man. “He was a real artist and great eccentric,” director Ridley Scott told Time magazine, “a true original. But above all, he was a really nice man.”
Giger’s dark visions are unmistakable, particularly in his disturbing blending of the organic and the mechanical.
Alien director Ridley Scott was inspired by Giger’s Necronomicon.