Hans Rudolf Giger

Giger. His very name sounds like an alien. One of the greatest talents of the 20th century Hans Rudolf «Rüdi» Giger is the Swiss surrealist, whose design work for «Alien» brought him the Oscar and forever changed science fiction.

Style and themes of art of Giger exist in his own fantastic reality. The artist created images in which combined human bodies and surrealistic mechanisms. He called the style «biomechanical» and many painters have earned to themselves popularity, recreating the worlds of HR Giger. Exclusively talented, better to say the man of extraordinary genius was in life the timid, modest and generous man, ideally coexisting with the Dark Universes. Otherworldly works of art and Xenomorph’s design, consolidated heritage of the artist forever. While many, who peer into Giger’s works, see only nightmares, the keen observer will see superlative beauty.



Alien Monster 


«Biomechanical» style was born from nightmares which he experienced, and art therapy, taken to combat sleeps disorders. It is fair to assume that this style became the reason of nightmares at others. «People are either thrilled or terrified by Giger’s art," said the Austrian artist Ernst Fuchs. «No one else knows how to depict the most horrific nightmares so stunningly beautifully." The novelist and the director Clive Barker observed: «Giger seems to be painting aliens, but the closer you look, the more you realize he’s painting twisted versions of us.»

Stanislav Grof, the pioneer in studying of «altered state of consciousness» and the founder of transpersonal psychology, in the unique essay «HR Giger and the Zeitgeist of the Twentieth Century» for the first time shows the visionary world of the artist in terms of transpersonal psychology. Giger’s works was analyzed in different variations, but his art is not considered from the point of view of social importance. Interpreting claustrophobia and dreadful aspects in Giger’s art, Grof opens new deeper understanding of works of the artist. For people, not familiar with the latest developments in the study of consciousness, Giger’s way to combine images seem illogical. But Giger’s understanding of the human psyche far surpasses the knowledge of many therapists. He looked for a source of the nightmares, visions and disturbing fantasies, and found, irrespective of pioneers of modern researches of consciousness and empirical psychotherapy, paramount importance of a patrimonial trauma.



The Spell II, 1974, 240×420 cm, acrylic and Indian ink on paper on wood

Hans Rudi (Rudolf) Giger was born in a Catholic family in 1940 in the city of Chur, the capital of Graubünden — the largest canton of Switzerland which he called «intolerable» with its high mountains and the bourgeois relations. The family house was his playground and became a place of inspirations from nightmares, especially the corridor conducting to a backyard in which he built «the Ghost train» and frightened by the games of peers. He later wrote in «Necronomicon» about the basement as about a terrible labyrinth where trapped different dangers, perpendicular and treacherous wooden open staircases which conducted down in the yawning abyss. «When I was about five years old, to my father handed a skull. It was something special. I was too small, and to me it was a little terrible. But I was proud of that had a skull. My interest in skulls and bones came early», — Giger remembered.

The father of Hans Rudi was a chemist and considered art as waste of efforts, insistently urging the son to be learned on the pharmacist and to return to a family apothecary who was on the first floor of the house, but Hans Rudy didn’t show any interest in this activity.

He didn’t pass examinations in university and didn’t become the pharmacist. In 1962, he entered the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts at which studied architecture and industrial design. In early student years, Giger with oil paints and ink began to design his emotions on canvas and even the early work showed his unique style.

«New friends instilled new interests. Sergey Golovin, the expert in magic, myths and legends socked me Lovecraft’s book in the late 1960s and presented Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead. He told that the basis for my work can be easily borrowed from Necronomicon. I always admired Lovecraft. Among other influences which had impact on me — ancient Egyptians. When I was about 6 years old, every Sunday I went to the museum in Chur. In the basement there kept beautiful mummy. From it came the smell of old that fascinated me. Later, when I started to draw and use aerograph, the main memory for me was the great inspiration of Egyptian art, in which so much death».



The Spell IV, 1977, 240x420 cm, acrylic and Indian ink on paper on wood


In eighteen years, he worked as the draftsman in architectural bureau Meissen where he opened for himself formal composition, learned symmetry and decorative motifs characteristic of interior styles of the churches. After the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts he was the designer in Andreas Kristen’s firm. In the same year he met actress Li Tobler, with whom he had a torrid love, difficult and tragic romance until her death by suicide in 1975.

Since 1964 HR Giger creates his first works, mostly drawings and pictures with ink, which resulted in a solo exhibition in 1966. The success and recognition followed after publications and the first posters in 1969 shortly after Giger discovered aerograph and own interpretation of surrealism that allowed creating to him the monochrome canvases depicting otherworldly fantastic visions. His works were collected and published in books Necronomicon and Necronomicon II.

The editors of Omni have been fascinated by the works of Giger. They recognized that H. R. Giger combines science fiction and eroticism, following the notion that science and sex are inexplicably linked. The second issue of Omni magazine had the characteristic features of HR Giger’s painting, dedicated to Li Tobler.



Necronom V, 1976, 100x150 cm, acrylic on paper


On hearsay, Tobler came to the Studio HR Giger knife and cut the painting of a knife in the shape of the letter «X». The editors asked Giger to correct the work of art, and it appeared on the cover of issue 1978. Frequent publication in the magazine of Giger’s works brought him fame, which has grown exponentially.

With Li Tobler Giger met in 1966. She studied acting, and Hans Rudi became her first great love. Couple lived in the forsaken houses of the area Niederdorf for some time. They had no money but were happy.

In 1970 Li and Hans Rudy moved to the house in Oerlikon and it was the serious step for almost poor. But the house didn’t like Li. She called it «shitty» and predicted the Giger that he would live in it for 30 years. Her prophecy came true. Giger lived in this house until his death, for 44 years, although he bought two more houses nearby. After Li and Hans Rudy’s relations cracked she was depressed and tried to commit suicide in 1974. The Giger cared about her, looked after during her stay at the clinic, looking for her, when she disappeared for a few days, but he was powerless against her severe depression. In 1975, at the age of 27 years, Li Tobler committed suicide in the house in Oerlikon. She was shot from the gun of Hans Giger. He was terribly shocked and all subsequent period was filled for him with grief and self-flagellation. After the death of his beloved, he created a bronze bust to decorate her grave. In the hallway of the house the polyester version of the bust hangs. Two of the most important and most known works, Li I and Li II, are devoted to the former beloved and a muse. They were created after her first suicidal attempt, some months prior to death.



Li I, 1974, 70x97, photogravure, handcolored. 


Details of personal history had essential impact on Giger’s art. Works gain disturbing character, and Giger’s art considers as a catharsis. Actually carefully created images passing through the «Passages» (the end 1960s — 1973) are in bright flowers which the artist used in the therapeutic purposes to be exempted from the nightmares and hallucinations disturbing him. And though gloomy presence was already brought in his art, only with death Li Tobler is marked outgrowth of pervasive and oppressive darkness.

Very few people doubt figurativeness force in Giger’s works. If research of mental area really true mission of surrealistic art, at this level Giger talks most convincingly and it is impossible to avoid thirst for this internal dialogue as far as it wouldn’t be shocking or frightening. Giger speaks the metaphorical language of dreams, not the waking mind, but within the boundaries of the hidden mind.

The art of Giger is associated with the monumental themes of life and death, birth and death. «Like Hieronymous Bosch, like Peter Brueghel, Giger mercilessly shows us the anabolism and catabolism of our realities. In these paintings we see ourselves as crawling embryos, as fetal larval creatures protected by the membranes of our egos waiting for the moment of our metamorphosis and newbirth. We see our cities, our civilizations as insect hives, ant colonies peopled by crawling creatures. Us. Giger gives us courage to say „hello“ to ur insectoid selves», — wrote about the works of Giger his friend Timothy Leary, writer, psychologist.

Giger painted the first paintings in oils, but he created many of early drawings the Indian ink. In these drawings images are defined carefully and methodically. Spraying of paint by means of a toothbrush through a small wire sieve was used for a covering of the big areas by an approximation method. He addressed to an aerographic in 1971 and substantially he remained faithful to this technique.

He created about 600 canvases ink and acrylic paints, some of them more than in four meters. Color in Giger’s works plays a supporting role, the main emphasis is placed on selection and comparison of images. A huge role is played by the exceptional skills of Giger drawing and composition. From the beginning of the 1990th Giger completely devotes himself to  three-dimensional works. Later graphic works, lithographs and silk-screen printing followed.

The first meeting with a cinema took place in 1969 in a fantastic short film of Fredi M. Murer of «Swiss Made 2069» for which the artist created a number of designs, using a biomechanical method of combining of natural and techno genic elements. In 1975 he took part in attempt to transfer Frank Herbert’s novel «Dune» to the screen. Under creative control of the director Alejandro Jodorowsky a significant amount of drawings was prepared by Hans Giger, Chris Foss, Jean Giraud (Möbius) who promised tremendous result to the movie. The film was made by David Lynch in 1984. The design of furniture for Harkonnen created by Giger in Lynch’s movie wasn’t used. But cooperation with Jodorowsky led to the short meeting with the screenwriter and the director Dan O’Bannon to which persistence he is obliged by work on «Alien».

Dan O’Bannon met Giger in Paris when together with Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to make «Dune». Two fans of Lovecraft so were impressed with each other that O’Bannon came back home to the United States with the head stuffed with biomechanical beings, writhing in his grey matter. Finally they were expelled from there onto the page as Alien. O’Bannon wrote in his essay «Something Perfectly Disgusting»: «I love geniuses, and have been privileged to work with several. One was HR Giger; I met him in Paris and he gave me a book of his artwork. I pored over it through one long night in my room on the Left Bank. His visionary paintings and sculptures stunned me with their originality, and aroused in me deep, disturbing thoughts, deep feelings of terror. They started an idea turning over in my head. This guy should design a monster movie. Nobody had ever seen anything like this on the screen.»



Hans Rudolf Giger designing concepts for Alejandro Jodorowsky's unmade adaptation of "Dune"


O’Bannon not only set out to write «Alien» specifically on «Giger’s monster», he urged the producers of the movie to get Giger personally involved in the production of the film. Producers were delighted not with such offer that some strange artist from Zurich worked in their film, preferring to invite someone from Hollywood. To hire an unknown European artist seemed to them, at least, funny. Impatient O’Bannon literally imposed «Necronomicon» of Giger to Ridley Scott. Having looked at the book, Scott was amazed and set a condition that will leave a film if Giger isn’t taken for work. Producers agreed. Ridley explained: «My enthusiasm with regard to the film increased significantly as I realized we had the ability to create a monster that would be superior to most of those from the past». Giger’s signature mesh of bone and machines, integrated with disintegration and sexuality, gives to the alien antagonist unique ingredient necessary to separate from other standard fantastic samples.



Alien Monster IV, 140x140 cm, 1978,  acrylic on paper on wood


Giger created images for some other sci-fi movies, among which «Poltergeist II», «Alien 3», «Batman Forever», «Species», «Prometheus». He addressed to a sculpture in the mid-1960s. At that time Giger worked with polyester, later he preferred bronze and aluminum. In 1990s he created the fountain zodiac signs defined as «biomechanoides».

Giger did not cease to be design. He designed furniture, tables, mirrors, lamps and other items for the Giger Bar in Chur, Giger Museum in Gruyeres, the microphone stand for Jonathan Davis (vocalist of Korn). Giger has designed album covers for musical groups and singers, some of which were awarded multiple times. Well-known music magazine «Rolling Stone» album covers «Koo Koo» of Debbie Harry and «Brain Salad Surgery» of Emerson, Lake & Palmer are included in the list of one hundred outstanding covers of century.

In 1998 the first illustrated Giger’s novel «San Gottardo’s Mystery» which united the scenario of the movie, comics and the black comedy was published. The same year Giger’s museum in Gruyère opened. The Museum saved the most important paintings and sculptures of the artist from the 1960s. On the top floor is a personal collection of Giger’s fantastic art and the Museum gallery, which presents works of other authors.

Hans Rudolf Giger died at the age of 74 on 12 may 2014. He fell down the stairs at his home in Zurich.

«I’ll never count the friends who come to my grave. I myself never go to funerals, because they just depress me… I think that everything ends with death. I think, unlike Carmen, not even in rebirth. The idea that anything goes on or that I even want to come back to this world is terrible. I do not want to live again. Once is enough. It’s also all so terribly exhausting. But, even if I’m gone, my art lives on. I’m glad, and I hope that it finds recognition in future generations.»

Oliver Stone, defining Giger’s place in art and culture, said: «I do not know anybody else, who has so accurately portrayed the soul of modern humanity. A few decades from now when they talk about the twentieth century, they will think of Giger».

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