Hans Rudolf “Ruedi” Giger ( 5 February 1940 – 12 May 2014) was a Swiss surrealist painter, whose style was adapted for many forms of media, including record-albums, furniture and tattoo-art.
The Zurich-based artist was best known for airbrush images of humans and machines linked together in a cold ‘biomechanical’ relationship. Later he abandoned airbrush work for pastels, markers or ink. He was part of the special effects team that won an Academy Award for design work on the film Alien. In Switzerland there are two theme-bars that reflect his interior designs, and his work is on permanent display at the H.R. Giger Museum at Gruyères.
Giger was born in 1940 in Chur, capital city of Graubünden, the largest and easternmost Swiss canton. His father, a pharmacist, viewed art as a “breadless profession” and strongly encouraged him to enter pharmacy, Giger recalled. He moved to Zürich in 1962, where he studied Architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts until 1970.
Giger’s first success was when H. H. Kunz, co-owner of Switzerland’s first poster publishing company, printed and distributed Giger’s first posters, beginning in 1969.
Giger’s style and thematic execution were influential. He was part of the special effects team that won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for their design work on the film Alien. His design for the Alien was inspired by his painting Necronom IV and earned him an Oscar in 1980. His books of paintings, particularly Necronomicon and Necronomicon II (1985) and the frequent appearance of his art in Omni magazine continued his rise to international prominence. Giger was admitted to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2013. He is also well known for artwork on several music recording albums including ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery, KORN vocalist standmixer’s and Deborah Harry’s KooKoo.
In 1998 Giger acquired the Château St. Germain in Gruyères, Switzerland, and it now houses the H.R. Giger Museum, a permanent repository of his work
Giger had a relationship with Swiss actress Li Tobler until she committed suicide in 1975. Li’s image appears in many of his paintings.
Flash back in 1971, Giger and Tobler visited director Fredi M. Murer in London. Murer filmed a TV documentary, entitled Passagen (1972), about Giger’s work. The documentary also featured interviews by both Giger and Tobler. In the 1972-1973 season, Tobler gained a part in the play My woman, my leader, and had to travel all around Switzerland. Physically and mentally exhausted after 130 performances of the play, weary after the hectic schedule that required extensive tour around the country and confused by her promiscuous erotic life, Tobler decided to take a leave of absence from the acting profession, as well as from her relationship with Giger. In 1974, she opted for leaving him and moving to San Francisco with her new American boyfriend. However, 30 days later, she returned to Zürich, claiming to be disappointed over the United States (as well as incapable of adapting to American lifestyle, according to Giger) and resuming her relationship with the painter.
Following this incident, Tobler started becoming heavily depressed. In sharp contrast to Giger, who was undergoing one of his most energetic artistic periods, Tobler was gradually dissolving in depression and apathy. Giger’s energy only seemed to depress her more. She started contemplating suicide. One of her friends, Jörg Stummer, advised her to open her own gallery, as a means of becoming active again. Her gallery presented several modern artists, including works by Manon, Walter Pfeiffer and Jürgen Klauke. At her last exhibition, entitled Schuhwerke (German for Shoe Works), the guests were invited to appear wearing bizarre shoe creations. Giger filmed the guests while wearing a pair of “shoes” hollowed out of fresh loaves of bread. Despite Tobler’s initial enthusiasm with her new project, after a short period of creative stir, she fell into a lethargic state and committed suicide at the age of 27, on Whit Monday 1975.
Giger’s most distinctive stylistic innovation was that of a representation of human bodies and machines in a cold, interconnected relationship, he described as “biomechanical”. His main influences were painters Dado, Ernst Fuchs and Salvador Dalí. He met Salvador Dalí, to whom he was introduced by painter Robert Venosa. Giger was also influenced by the work of the sculptor Stanislas Szukalski, and by the painters Austin Osman Spare and Mati Klarwein. He was also a personal friend of Timothy Leary. Giger studied interior and industrial design at the School of Commercial Art in Zurich (from 1962 to 1965) and made his first paintings as a means of art therapy.
Drawing and use litographi for final execution
Giger applied his biomechanical style to interior design. One “Giger Bar” appeared in Tokyo, but the realization of his designs were a great disappointment to him, since the Japanese organization behind the venture did not wait for his final designs, and instead used Giger’s rough preliminary sketches. For that reason; Giger disowned the Tokyo Giger Bar. The two Giger Bars in his native Switzerland (in Gruyères and Chur), however, were built under Giger’s close supervision and they accurately reflect his original concepts. At The Limelight in Manhattan, Giger’s artwork was licensed to decorate the VIP room, the uppermost chapel of the landmarked church, but it was never intended to be a permanent installation and bore no similarity to the Giger Bars in Switzerland. The arrangement was terminated after two years when the Limelight closed. As of 2009 only the two authentic Swiss Giger Bars remain.