Tribute: H.R. Giger
We have received the news that artist H.R. Giger has died at the age of 74 as a result of injuries suffered by falling down stair in his home.
It’s not often that a set and art director becomes a household name. It would be easy to assume that everyone reading a site with ‘geekery’ in the URL is familiar with the man’s work, if only for one thing.
That wee beastie would be enough to score Giger a tribute in these parts, but we’d be remiss not to draw attention to his other designs. Having been born in Switzerland in 1940 Giger moved into interior design. He started working in inks and oil paints as a form of art therapy. Giger suffered from night terrors and the images that invaded his sleep inspired his work. Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how terrifying that must’ve been for the guy. His immensely unique style of monochromic biomechanical nightmares found an audience in very little time, particularly the publishing of his work in Omni magazine.
Drawing further influence from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and surreal artist Salvador Dali, Giger continued to achieve acclaim for his paintings and sculptures. During the 1960s and 1970s he worked in the film industry as a director but was unable to completely bring his visual style to life. He sought to work with David Lynch after the release of Eraserhead. Coincidently Giger was brought on to provide art for the movie Dune, back when it was a ten hour long epic handled by French film makers. He was retained as the reigns we handed through a number of film makers before winding up with Lynch. Only Giger’s chairs for the Harkonnen castle wound up in the film, but people took notice.
This served as an entry point for Giger’s design to enter Hollywood. Specifically a certain late 1970’s sci-fi horror called Star Beast took notice. They’d been having trouble really nailing the design of their titular monster, having settled on the best of the bad models. This is what they’re working with:
Ok, the talons are pretty gnarly if impractical. But could you take this thing seriously once it had been rendered in latex? Fortunately the fates aligned and the film-makers came across this piece of Giger art:
The film was renamed Alien and history was made. The alien is possibly the most legendary sci-fi monster in the history of cinema. From there Giger became a cultural icon with his designs being picked up for use in other movies. Species, Poltergeist II, Killer Condoms and Prometheus all got added to his resume, and he was even commissioned to redesign the Batmobile for Batman Forever (which wasn’t used).
The music industry took notice as well. Jonathan Davis of Korn asked Giger to create for him a microphone stand that was later converted into a fine art sculpture. Deborah Harry and Blondie, Danzig and Dead Kennedys’ used his art, and Ibanez guitars had custom instruments made. The chain of ‘Giger Bars’ were the product of his unique interior design. I don’t suggest getting to drunk in them.
On a personal note I’m giving a special shout out to his point-and-click adventure game Dark Seed. The moderately rated game earns a special mention from me for scaring the absolute crap out of me. At age twelve it was one of my first forays into the horrifyingly sexualised nightmare world of Giger and it lead to some nights without sleep. That’s how I’ll remember Giger…that, and the Alien.
Rest in Peace Hans Rudolf Giger, you terrifying man.