Tuesday, 13 May 2014

H. R. Giger: Alien designer dies aged 74

The Swiss artist and designer of Ridley Scott's iconic Alien (1979) creature, H. R. Giger, has died aged 74, a spokesperson at Giger's museum in Gruyere has confirmed.

He died in hospital on Monday after sustaining injuries from a fall at his home in Zurich.

Born in Switzerland in 1940, Giger was best known for his 'Xenomorph' creature design for Ridley Scott's science fiction horror masterpiece for which he won an Academy Award® for Visual Effects in 1980.

Though his father initially encouraged him to become a pharmacist, worrying that art was a "bread less profession", Giger was dedicated to design, and moved to Zurich in 1962 to study architecture and industrial design, where he developed his technique.

After a period working as an interior designer, he switched to art full time, working on small ink drawings before moving to oil paintings and then to airbrushed work which owes a debt to Lovecraft and Giger's friendship with Salvador Dali. Early books of his paintings certainly bear the Lovecraft influence, named for the Necronomicon.

Meticulously detailed, Giger's surrealist paintings were usually produced in large formats and then reworked with an airbrush, often featuring scenes of humans and machines fused together. Giger described his unique style as "biomechanics", inspired, he said, by night terrors.

One of his pieces in particular – Necronom IV – became the inspiration for the alien killer in Sir Ridley's hit film.

He also worked on Aliens (1986), Alien³ (1992) and, more recently, appeared in a documentary about director Alejandro Jodorowsky's unmade film of the book Dune.

Stewart Jamieson, a friend and colleague of the artist, said it was "natural that people will look at Alien as being his biggest impact because of its attention but his legacy is far more than that".

"He was one of the primary surrealist artists of his generation," he told the BBC. "He never considered himself a film designer, he was an artist and Alien was a different canvas for him to work on."

British film director Edgar Wright tweeted: "RIP the great H.R. Giger. The Swiss surrealist who made night terrors into unforgettable art. We will miss you."

Giger's vision of a human skull inside a machine appeared on the cover of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's 1973 album, Brain Salad Surgery.

He also designed covers for Debbie Harry's solo album, Koo Koo.

A poster inserted into the album sleeve of The Dead Kennedys' LP Frankenchrist attracted attention when it became the subject of a court case. A complaint about the image of rows of genitalia on the poster resulted in the band's vocalist Eric Reed Boucher, also known as Jello Biafra, being tried for distributing harmful material to minors in 1986. The case was later dismissed.

Despite the dark nature of Giger's work, Mr Jamieson said: "The old adage that you can't judge a book by his cover was appropriate with him. He was a very sweet man. The first time we met, I was amazed by how generous and shy he was."

In 1998, Giger opened his own museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland, which alongside his own paintings and sculptures, displays works from his own art collection from the likes of Salvador Dali, Dada and Ernst Fuchs.

In December 2004, Giger received the prestigious award, La Medaille de la Ville de Paris, at Paris City Hall.

Last year, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in Seattle, along with fellow inductees, David Bowie and J.R.R. Tolkien.

His work has also been exhibited around the world, including recent retrospectives in Hamburg, Germany, Moscow and Istanbul.

Our thoughts are with his wife, Carmen Maria Scheifele Giger, who runs the museum dedicated to his work.


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