I recently learned that one of my favorite contemporary artists and an important figure for Generation X died at age 74 on May 12, 2014.
H. R. Giger, a Swiss artist celebrated for his creation of the darkly beautiful aliens from Alien and its sequel Aliens. Giger was an important window into human anatomical psychology. Highly controversial and seemingly perverse by many critics, he laid open the biological functioning of sexuality in combination with surreal landscapes that reflect the darkness of the modern world. Giger won an Oscar for his work on Alien.
I’ve always been deeply affected by Giger. His work depicts a shadowy garden of human sexual functions, exploring all that we are and the disturbing possibilities of a human biomechanical future. He colors the haunting quality of my own childhood growing up with my father’s guns and industrial wastelands that lurked below my pristine mountain home; a world changing at terrific speed and the sense that there was nowhere else to go but rot in place.
In Giger’s work, nature is confined, twisted, wrenched apart, trapped, manipulated and in it the soul is barely visible through filmy eyes of nymph-like femininity surrounded by creeping things hugging, grasping and penetrating every hole. Giger lays open the body to show us the pipes and fittings, juxtaposing sexual organs with mechanical chambers of guns, metal and organic mutating cells. These opposing elements become biomechanical creatures, a new species, a gallery of deformations and experiments. Giger is certainly not the first to explore this organic world. His ideas were greatly influenced by Hieronymus Bosch, a Dutch artist from the 13th century dark age.
Perhaps Giger sensed that we are standing at the gates of manipulating our own DNA, that our technology will thrust us into an unimaginable new existence. There is the feeling of inevitability, that we have no control over the transformation – the most frightening thing about his work. Freedom and choice potentially replaced by servitude and Orwellian control. Have we damaged the planet to such an extent that the only way we can survive is to change our fundamental biology? Giger explored these ideas and the filmmakers used his imagery, pushing the limits of these nightmares not to be grotesque for its own sake, but because we must think about them.
Artists like Giger, force us to the think about the uncomfortable, the icky things about ourselves, the things we must explore in a time we have the freedom to explore them. Without understanding this realm of the human condition, the horrors we could face might make artists’ work such as Giger seem as cheery as Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers in comparison.
I designate H. R. Giger as an Honorary Solo Gen X Warrior and may he rest in peace in a cemetery with a prominent tombstone.
Some people would say my paintings show a future world and maybe they do, but I paint from reality. I put several things and ideas together, and perhaps, when I have finished, it could show the future. — H. R. Giger