Word came out yesterday that H.R. Giger died on Monday, from injuries after a fall. Giger was one of those oddest of artists, the ones that make the jump from the art world into the popular consciousness, and he did so in one of the more unique ways of the twentieth century. While some artists became pop stars in their own right, Giger became legendary for designing the eponymous creature of the Alien films.
He didn’t set out in particular to do that, it’s just that Dan O’Bannon had seen Giger’s art on another project (Jodorowsky’s Dune, which never saw the light of day) and was so taken by the combination of horror and beauty that when it came to making Alien, Giger’s was the only name on the list of ideas for who could design this thing. They picked out Necronom IV (the header picture) from Giger’s book Necronomicon as the starting point, and Giger proceeded to create the horrific visuals and designs of that initial film.
The Alien itself is one of the few genuinely new creatures invented in the modern age, and it is such a synthesis of primal fears onto a modern mold that perhaps it could not have been created at any other time.
His work was unsettling, a visual descendant of Lovecraft’s textual visions of darkness beyond the stars. Giger grounded the mechanics of technology in our oldest and most bedrock fears. Things that slither and crush and consume us and rape us to death while we can do little but bleat our terror. He called it a biomechanical approach, and painted in blacks and grays the abyss that Nietzsche warned us off staring into.
Lovecraft may have first jotted the words of this particular branch of horror, but Giger painted it for us.