Giger, you slice my tissues into thin microscopic slides
for the world to see.
Giger, you razor-shave sections of my brain
and plaster them still pulsing across your canvas.
Timothy Leary, 1991
When Timothy Leary wrote these great words about a great artist of our times in 1991, he was looking at Giger's New-York-City-Images. Every line speaks of the immense admiration he had „for this Swiss painter who is producing the great art of the 21st Century.“ And, like the man himself, Giger's works were indeed extraordinary. Seldom before have we glimpsed a vision so dark as the one he managed to express in his evolutionary paintings and sculptures.
Giger once stated that, as a child, he preferred to dress in black – as soon an he was allowed to choose his clothes freely.
The dark attracted him more than anything else – and it seemed only logical that the spaces void of light were his favourite playing ground. It is a preferation continuously reflected through his art – from „Biomechanics“ to „Prometheus“.
His greatest success, the one that has made H.R. Giger an immortal, are his unforgotten space monsters. In 1978 he created a revolutionary desing for „Alien“ and togehter with Ridley Scott set a brandnew standard for science fiction as ist was. His as yet unseen new horror aesthetics left a cinemtic audience scared stiff all over the globe. His vision of intelligent extraterrestrial life frightened and defined a whole generation and made its creator a famous man: his spectacular artwork rightly earned him an Oscar for Best Achievement for Visual Effects. And yet it would be wrong to reduce the Swiss artist to his work on „Alien“ alone.
Giger, who despite of his immense publicity was well known for his friendliness and great modesty, had been experimenting with the cinema before. In 1968 he partnered with Fredi M. Murer for a short film – Swiss Made 2069 – for which he designed an extraterrestrial showing all the basic features of his Aliens to come. In 1976 he created designs for „Dune“, a science fiction movie intendend for Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, right before David Lynch was commissioned as director and Giger's career with the project met its informal end. A development he later commented according to his well known and succinct quiteude: „That's the way they treat the petite Suisses [the little Swiss]“ .
Next to the prevailing darkness in his images, a lifelong fondness for the macabre, and his fascination for the motif of the haunted house, Giger also loved blood.
An obsession he attributed to his catholic upbringing and days in kindergarden, where early on he was confronted with the „bloodcovered face of Jesus Christ“ and the fact that he was to blame for all the suffering of his Redeemer. Lovecraft's Necronomicon and the Myth of Cthulhu also fascinated him. He started illustrating Lovecraft's stories in the second issue of a Swiss magazine named Cthulhu-News, published by Robert B. Fischer. Later he displayed these drawings in Giger's Biomechnanics“ and when „Giger's Necronomicon“ came out, the artist almost initiated an outburst among the fans of the macabre, who basically believed that an actual, real-life section of Abdul Alhazred's mystical opus had surfaced.
One of his favourite work tools – one might even call it the trademark of his art – was his „airgun“.
His airbrush technique enabled Giger to create the largest portion of his opus of photorealistic surrealism and he was most fascinated by this process of mechanization. While creating his semi-biological, semi-mechanical avatars and spaces, he used the airbrush to become „an automaton himself.“
Today we still can admire his realistic style on a number of album covers. The most famous one: Punk Debbie Harry, aka Blondie, pierced by four gigantic needles.
On May 12, 2014 the great H.R. Giger died, age 74, after tumbling down the stairs in his Zurich home.
The man who once stated that he obviously had to have a „a great guardian angel“, as he had without a scratch survived four attacks on his life carried out by people with shotguns, and who seemed convinced that „a person like me can't always be so lucky,“ finally missed his guardian angel on that particular day. A great tragedy that couldn't make us sadder. When H.R. Giger died, one of the great contemporary artists of our time, a very special human being and an admirable visionary of the 21th century has left the stage. He leaves us with an extensive body of work, one that will fascinate and attract us for decades to come - to say the least. The fact that he has terminated his cinematic career with his contribution to the artwork of the 2012 movie „Prometheus“, a final cooperation with director Ridley Scott, almost seems like he has gone full circle.
H.R Giger, we salute you – R.I.P.
[All Giger quotes are taken from HR GIGER ARh, published by TASCHEN in 1991.]