HR Giger, the man who designed both the monster and the sets in Alien, has died aged 74. He was known as a surrealist artist, but described his own work as “biomechanical.”
The son of a chemist, Swiss-born Giger rejected his father’s advice that art would not be financially lucrative. He studied architecture and industrial design in Zurich and then began an art career, initially in inks and oils.
His most famous work was with airbrushing on a large scale, with a particular emphasis on fusions of human and mechanical elements, inspired partially by his own night terror sleep disorder.
He published a compilation book called Necromicon in 1977, which was later seen by Ridley Scott during the planning stages of Alien. Scott hired Giger to work on the movie and asked him to develop an image from the book, Necronom IV (pictured below), to become the creature in the title role.
Among the design decisions Giger took in developing the Alien was to give it no eyes (making it creepier) and to give it an indeterminate gender but still include sexual overtones such as the retractable tongue with snapping teeth, interpreted by some as having both phallic and yonic imagery.
Giger also worked on set designs for the movie, including the planetoid LV-426 (Acheron.) He was rewarded with the Academy Award for visual effects in 1980. He went on to work on the rest of the Alien series.
Not all of his work made it onto the screen however: he worked on an early attempt at a Dune movie which was abandoned, with his designs used only as an inspiration in the David Lynch version.
He also designed several album covers, most notably Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery, and worked on the video game Dark Seed.
Giger died yesterday from injuries sustained during a fall.
(Main image credit: Matthias Belz)