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.

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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.

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