Swiss artist H.R. Giger, known internationally for his work in designing the creature in Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic Alien, has died. According to Sandra Mivelaz of the H.R. Giger museum, the 74 year old artist passed away in hospital Monday following injuries sustained in a fall.
Renowned for work that showcased the fusion of the human body with mechanical elements in often hellish, macabre ways, Giger was legendary among science fiction fans for designing the iconic Alien creature. Though he eventually distanced himself from Hollywood, he is also remembered for working on films such as Species, and Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt at Dune.
Hailing from the town of Chur in southeastern Switzerland, Giger (who was born Hans Reudi Giger on Feb 5th, 1940) first trained as an industrial designer before working to become an artist. His father, who viewed art as a “breadless profession,” encouraged him to enter the pharmaceutical field, but the young Giger moved to Zurich in 1962 and studied at the School of Applied Arts there until 1970.
“My paintings seem to make the strongest impression on people who are, well, who are crazy. If they like my work they are creative… or they are crazy.”
Working first in ink and oil before discovering the airbrush, Giger’s monotone “biomechanical” works were the stuff of nightmares. Displaying often fetishistic sexual imagery, Giger’s work contributed to an enduring fashion of tattoo art that drew from his motifs of human and mechanical fusion. Giger considered it a great compliment, telling Seconds magazine in 1994 that “To wear something like that your whole life is the largest compliment someone can pay to you as an artist.”
Giger’s work on Alien earned him an Academy Award in 1979 for special effects, though frustrations with Hollywood would eventually drive him away from film projects. Giger’s work influenced a generation of recording artists as well and can be found gracing album covers and instruments alike. The cover of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery, as well as Debbie Harry’s 1981 solo effort Koo Koo, were both painted by Giger and included in a Rolling Stone list of the top 100 album covers of all time in 1991. Japanese manufacturer Ibanez released several lines of H.R. Giger signature model guitars, upon which his work is featured, while Korn’s Johnathan Davis commissioned Giger to design a custom microphone stand.
Giger purchased the Chateau St. Germain in Gruyeres in 1998 and established a museum and permanent repository for his work, which was more often commercially exhibited than found in galleries. He is survived by his wife, Carmen Maria Scheifele Giger, who is also the director of the H.R. Giger museum.