Thursday 15 May 2014

Obituary: H.R. Giger 1940 – 2014

Loving The Alien...

“Giger’s work disturbs us, spooks us, because of its enormous evolutionary time span. It shows us, all too clearly, where we come from and where we are going.” - Timothy Leary
Swiss surreal artist H.R. Giger shot to fame with the release of Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi horror film 'Alien'. Giger provided the set design and more importantly the wasp-like 'Xenomorph' creature that stalked the corridors of the spaceship Nostromo. His work on the film earned him an Oscar for best visual effects in 1980. But the career of Giger goes far beyond this film. His nightmarish 'Biomechanical' style became ingrained into the very idea of what it means to create dark art, permeating mainstream culture, through films, and music.

The son of a chemist, Giger was born Hans Rudolf 'Ruedi' Giger on 5th February 1940, in the Swiss town of Chur. He studied architecture and industrial design and briefly pursued a career in interior design before his art took over his life. He began his art career utilising ink, oil paints before moving into airbrushing, a technique that would add a soft dreamlike quality to his nightmarish subjects. Horror, fetish, sex, death were constant themes in the artists work as were pronounced influences from the likes of Heironymous Bosch, Ernst Fuchs and Salvador Dalí. But uniting them all was his pioneering 'Biomechanical' style, which saw organic creatures and beings melded with machines in symbiotic ways.

In adition to the film that brought him to the attention of the mainstream, Giger also worked directly on films such as Alien 3, Dune, Prometheus, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and even moved into directing his own short films, which include Tagtarum, and Necronomicon.

His distinctive visual style also lent itself to music, and many of his paintings would go on to be featured on the covers of albums by a diverse range of artists including Walpurgis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Debbie Harry, Celtic Frost, Carcass, Danzig and Tryptikon.

During the 80s Giger began to increasingly move into sculpture before abandoning painting altogether after 1990. This tactile three-dimensional representation of his artwork brought his nightmares headlong into reality. No longer were we viewing a glimpse through a window, but were confronted face-to-face with the horrors he unleashed. Even his sculptural work became linked with his aesthetic fingerprint on music when Korn front-man Jonathan Davies commissioned Giger to create his now famous microphone stand.

Giger's early experience in interior design would also resurface with the design and construction of several 'Giger Bars' of which two remain: one in his hometown of Chur, Swizerland, and another in Château St. Germaine, also in Switzerland. Another bar had existed in the late 80s in Tokyo, however Giger distanced himself from the project due to problems with the city fire wardens. It was completed without further involvement from him, and would eventually close after being taken over by the Yakuza. One more Giger bar existed as a three-year art installation at the The Limelight in New York in 1998, which was dismantled when the club eventually closed down.

Giger's body of work became so expansive that in 1998, he opened his own museum in Château St. Germaine,Gruyeres, Switzerland. The museum not only features his own work, but also his personal collection which includes pieces by Salvidor Dalí as well as other Surrealist and Dada artists.

Giger died on Tuesday 13th May 2014 following injuries he sustained after a fall down a staircase at his home. His influence on art and film has been profound and has solidified his legacy as one of the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. He is survived by his wife, Carmen Maria Scheifele Giger.

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