This is a short feature on special effects artist H R Giger, which was printed in the December issue of the Pebble.
Spotlight Artist – H R Giger
Everyone loves a Surrealist. You can’t understand what they are on about, but you love them. Then there’s Science fiction; Fantastical nonsense fronted by a dark facade of reality’s nameless dread. Mix the two together in a creative melting pot of fetishist terror and you will be lucky to discover something a little like HR Giger. This ladies and gentleman, is Dr. Strangelove.
He was born in Switzerland 1940 and from an early age admits he was fascinated by women; early ink drawings were made as a part of his art therapy. After he discovered airbrushing and combined it with a freehand drawing technique, he started to develop the landscapes he is most famous for; the surreally fragmented feminine body being swallowed up by dark biomechanical contraptions in a dark futuristic universe. The prominent dark erotic undertones were more than likely the result of a tempestuous relationship with Swiss actress Li Tobler. She took her own life in 1975, yet her face can be seen echoed in much of his work, particularly his third publication in 1977 Necronomicon.
On viewing one of the first few copies of this book, Alien director Ridley Scott and script writer Dan O’Bannon decided they wanted him to work on the film. O’Bannon was introduced to Giger when they worked on an early attempt to produce Dune, admitting; “his paintings had a profound effect on me. I had never seen anything that was quite as horrible and at the same time as beautiful as his work. So I ended up writing a script about a Giger monster.”
20th Century Fox, who provided the budget for the film, thought Giger’s work was too dark. However, after producing initial design drawings such as Necronom IV, he was recruited to work on all forms of the Alien and its environments. He was awarded an Oscar for Visual Effects in 1980 at the age of 40. His stylistic influence seemed detrimental to the success of the film, and continued to resonate in the following sequels, yet he was not asked to return to work on Aliens by James Cameron.
Since Alien, Giger worked on other films including Poltergist II and Species, but has diversified and worked on many other projects. He has produced an album cover for Debbie Harry; forayed into sculpture, set up a museum devoted to his work in 1998, designed furniture and settings for numerous bars all over the world. He has now retired from painting, but his influence can be seen in many different forms of sci-fi culture, as well as tattoo’s, rock music, and the odd motorcycle paint job. This is phantasmagorical at its best.