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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

H.R. Giger

H.R. Giger was born in 1940, on February 5, Chur, Switzerland, the son of a wealthy chemist. When he was 22 he left to study architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Art in Zurich, Switzerland. At the age of 24 he published his first painting and at the age of 26 he had already had his own solo exhibition only to receive world wide publication of one of his posters three years later.

In 1978 he published his most well known book of art which was called, Necronomicon. This book caught the attention of film director Ridley Scott who had recently begun development for his feature film Alien. Mr. Scott met with H.R. Giger and invited him to join as the art designer for the production. In 1979 Alien was released which led to Giger winning an Academy Award for his character and world design.

H.R. Giger is known for his strange, subliminal often called “gothic” paintings, normally done with an airbrush. One pair of his painting is called Brain Salad Surgery, which was used and released as an album cover for the rock band “Emerson, Lake & Palmer”, shows a beautiful woman whose style looks to be a cross between Egyptian and some sort of Alien in one image. The second shows the same woman but now as a skull mounted on a stake or pillar with a mechanical vice clamping around it and drills digging into where its brain would be, shaping it.

This is of one my my favorite pieces by him for many reasons. First of all the symmetry, by splitting the photo down the middle it is almost even on both sides. This creates symmetry without making it look like it’s simply mirrored. I also like the idea of taking something beautiful then, while still using the same model, making something ugly and terrifying. I also really like the deeper meaning within the picture. While Giger hasn’t said exactly what this pair is meant to represent, to most it shows the lengths and pains people go through to fit into the world. Giger has always said that he didn’t understand the point of trying to be like everyone else, he said that being like everyone else was often denying one’s self. Which is one thing I really like about Giger.

Another thing I truly love about H.R. Giger is that he doesn’t hold back. In the 1978 his piece Landscape XIV was removed from an unnamed art gallery, because it was found to be too obscene and offensive. However what separates Giger’s art from many other “obscene and offensive” pieces is that Giger doesn’t draw or paint the “obscene and offensive” for the sake of being rude or disrespectful, he paints it in his attempt to break into darker parts of the human mind. He draws, paint, and creates what he sees in his own nightmares. In fact he was known to suffer, even as an adult from extreme night terrors. He would then use images from these night terrors as the basis for much of his work, even the creature design for his award winning monster, Xenomorph, in Alien.

In this particular case, referring to Landscape XIV, he had painted a landscape of babies faces that appeared to be melting and turning to mush. While this was not his first image of distorted babies it was his most disturbing. He was criticized for his depiction of babies but he responded by explaining that his depiction of them like this stemmed from two things. The first being that he saw the image of a baby being the most beautiful, innocent thing on earth, however, his second reason was his fear of them. While he saw them as beautiful and innocent, he also feared what they could one day grow to become. His painting of babies melting and becoming distorted monsters was simply showing that something that is at one point beautiful and wonderful can one day grow to become something horrible.

As an aspiring filmmaker I really love the double meaning he gives every piece of art he creates. When he creates something, you can look at it and see something new every time. This  is something I would really like to do with my own art, not only with my film but with my photography as well.

After publishing several book, producing multiple solo art pieces and opening two museums, H.R. Giger was added to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2013. He died one year later in 2014 in Zürich, Switzerland.

Citation Page

Giger Estate. HR Giger – The Official Website, Giger, H.R. Necronomicon. Sphinx Verlag, 1977.

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