One of our most memorable icons has passed.
Even if you've never seen a picture or met Hans Ruedi Giger, you still know his work. His biomechanoid aesthetic is instantly recognizable and is as stunningly gorgeous as it is deeply unsettling. He worked on films like Poltergeist II, Dune and Species. But most of us still know him best for his designs in Alien.
Sadly, Giger died on Monday from injuries suffered from a fall. He was 74.
But Giger had an obsession with death, and despite how others saw his work, he didn't think his art was dour or depressing. He once said the following of his own style:
Some people say my work is often depressing and pessimistic, with the emphasis on death, blood, overcrowding, strange beings and so on, but I don't really think it is. There is hope and a kind of beauty in there somewhere, if you look for it.
And in the spirit of that, maybe we shouldn't mourn the death of a great artist, but instead celebrate the wonder, they joy and even the dread his art invoked.
And Alien, if anything, is the place to start. For me, before Giger, the notion of aliens was always the iconic gray-skinned, big-eyed, thin-limbed creatures that had become the default. If you thought of aliens and closed your eyes, for a long time, that is what you'd probably imagine. And fair play to that aesthetic, as variations on that theme are still used even today.
But the eyes, the mouth, the body shape -- they're all still effectively humanoid. For aliens, they aren't very, well, alien.
Do you remember the first time you saw Giger's xenomorph? Scared the @#$% out of you, didn't it? Those creatures are undeniably alien, even though the one in the first movie was just a guy in a suit. It's that long head, that mouth within a mouth -- and no eyes! How do you know where it's looking?
And yet, as was Giger's modus operandi, there was something almost sexually alluring about the xenomorph design. For something so wrong, it just feels right. You look at that critter and just know that there's no hope, there's no escape, yet you can't help but be mesmerized as you stare into the void that is assured death.
And, also, from Alien we get the Giger mystique. He infamously wouldn't come out to Hollywood to talk about designing for the film. Even when he was on set, he scared the hell out of most of the actors and crew. He wore all black because, otherwise you'd be able to tell he was covered in Indian ink. But also, Giger would confess, he liked keeping people on their toes, he enjoyed how unsettled people were that his drafting room was full of bones, some of them human. Giger was the first to admit of his fans that "If they like my work they are creative ... or they are crazy."
And he reveled in it.
In fact, he also said that "The greatest compliment is when people get tattooed with my work, whether it's done well or not. To wear something like that your whole life is the largest compliment someone can pay to you as an artist."
That's a huge part of Giger's legacy, too -- that this sexy, biomechanical style that flirts dangerously with oblivion is etched across the flesh of so many people who understood the power (and the madness, too) of his art.
We've put together a small gallery of his work below to remind us of just how magnificent the man truly was.