H.R. Giger showed us nightmare visions that were unlike those anyone else had conjured. The man who designed the Alien for Ridley Scott belongs in the pantheon of visionaries of the horrific alongside Hieronymus Bosch and Francis Bacon. Giger visualized concepts that are particularly modern, as they meld biological and mechanical elements, and are harrowingly seductive in their curvaceous sexuality. Now H.R. Giger has died at the age of 74, due to injuries sustained in a fall.
Reuters reports that Swiss television news outlets reported the artist’s death, with no specifics of the fall that claimed the life of the Oscar-winning designer.
Giger is best known for his work on Alien, originally inspired by the painting ‘Necronom IV,’ but that was merely one of many films that used (or attempted to utilize) his talents. In Alien, Giger was able to bring his visualizations to particularly vicious life, despite the omnipresent limitations of budget, time and materials.
Giger’s work on Alien flowed from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to film Dune, for which Giger contributed designs. Dan O’Bannon, an architect of Alien who also worked on the aborted Dune, would eventually bring Giger on to Ridley Scott’s picture. One of Giger’s Dune designs — which can be seen on screen in the great doc Jodorowsky’s Dune — ended up in Prometheus in altered form.
And anyone who spent long Friday nights browsing a rental shop full of VHS tapes paused, probably every single week, to marvel at Giger’s box art for Future-Kill. Not many rented the movie, which didn’t live up to the box art, but how could it possibly do so?
Giger’s art adorned album covers, not just for metal bands (Danzig, Carcass, and Celtic Frost) but also for acts like Debbie Harry and ELO. But his most significant contribution to the music scene was a painting eventually dubbed ‘Penis Landscape,’ which was included as a fold-out poster with ‘Frankenchrist’ by the Dead Kennedys. When a teen girl bought the record in the mid-’80s, the painting got the attention of the Parent’s Music Resource Center (PMRC), which helped launch an obscenity trial against the band and related persons. No conviction followed, but the turmoil of the legal trouble helped destroy the Dead Kennedys.