Hans Rudolph Giger is best known for his work as a set designer on the 1979 movie “Alien”. The film shaped the perception of modern sci-fi and horror and won him an Oscar for visual effects. It's basically impossible in 2017 to not have watched the original movie, and there's no chance you've missed all the buzz and hype around it - either the franchise business or the unbelievable amount of sequels. Anyway, this article's aim is not to analyze the reality of the film industry, but rather give a short commentary on one of the most influential modern futuristic artists.
Despite the money-making machine it turned out to be, Alien is an important event in popular culture, since it started a new idea of non-human intelligent life forms (creating the xenomorphs), and for consolidating the fame of the then young artist H.R. Giger. The unique aesthetic that the surrealist painter created was very unique. This did not only shape the entire Alien franchise, but would come to define the world of horror. Although Giger, his unique style and biomechanical, as he calls it, themes had already made him popular in the 1970s, it was Alien that helped him achieve the popularity he has nowadays.
But what is Giger’s Art? A futuristic apocalyptic world full of human sexuality merging with some kind of technology? A startling milestone on the shadowy lit road once traveled by the likes of Bosch, Brueghel, Lovecraft, Poe, and Kafka, Giger’s paintings are one of the darkest concepts for Man and his deep inner universe of fear and grotesque desires.
“In an age in which the classic words of the Surrealists - 'As beautiful as the unexpected meeting, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella' - can become reality and perfectly achievable with an atom bomb, so too has there been a surge of interest in biomechanoids.”
― H.R. Giger, ARh+
This quote gives a certain idea of what Giger’s inspirations were. He was trying to escape from the pessimistic/disquiet concerns which were not only pursuing him in his dreams but were appearing with annoying repetitiveness in the daytime. Those are the concerns of every modern human being in a way, although he was embracing them and dealing with them even more deeply.
Since his infant years, he had the tendency of obsessive characteristics. In his parent’s house, Giger would go down the "steep and treacherous wooden stairways that lead into the yawning abyss" of a courtyard in the back. There, as Giger explains in his book, Necronomicon, he built model skeletons from cardboard and plaster. From his father, Giger obtained a human skull, which he kept to his last days. He had eight complete skeletons in his Zurich home.
As a kid, Giger would constantly paint images of powerful trains. He also became obsessed with guns. "I could've armed 20 people by the time I was 10," he recalls.
That came to an end four years later, when he kissed a girl for the first time. "From then on, I was indifferent to weapons [and] trains," Giger writes. "To quell my constant excitement, I masturbated during class. My only interest was eroticism." This evolved into a consistent interest in Freudian psychology. This, as well as the guns, may be seen as a few of the central motives in his art.
H.R. Giger believed in art as therapy – an escape from the horrific (and in the same time extremely engaging) modern society and its values of technological and sexual content. In one of his interviews, the painter mentions that the movie that mostly represents his aesthetics (even more than the movies he’s been involved in) is David Lynch’s first film – Eraserhead. One cannot misinterpret the meaning of such an announcement – it’s more than obvious that Giger fears but is also fascinated by the dark times he lived in, and the even darker future. If the stories about him are true, his art definitely gave him the pleasance and peace he was looking for. He was always described as a really warm and calm person, although a little bit eccentric when it came to collaborations (see Frank Pavich’s, the director of Jodorowsky’s Dune interview )
Giger was definitely one of the biggest freaks in the last few decades. He consistently merged hybrids of human and machine into images of haunting power and dark psychedelia to create one of the scariest ideas about the future. But it is not a coincidence that artists such as Giger or Lynch are so touched by this topic. This is the topic of technological progress and humanity’s inability to cope with it. They were concerned, with their sensitive imagination, by the upcoming future. Mankind is already going through the data and technological era, and everything changes rapidly. Exponential development is leading to a society lost in information and lacking ideas. Cyborg people are already a fact - there is no chance of humans missing the opportunity to increase their abilities, and for good or bad, that is what is going to happen. The problem which Lynch and Giger are trying to point out, is the still completely ineffable void in human psychology, which somehow all scientists and future-optimists kind of miss.