Industrial Artists: H.R. Giger, the man who revolutionised cinema monsters

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Giger in 1985

The famous Xenomorph alien in the game Alien: Isolation

With Alien: Covenant coming out this year I have an excuse to talk about one of my favourite contemporary industrial artists: Hans Rudolf Giger and a series on one of my favourite interests, industrial art.

No other artist’s imagination compares to that affirmed by his brutal depictions of bio-mechanical landscapes and gruesome and often pornographic organisms. This is perhaps what captured the imagination of Hollywood director Ridley Scott. Scott was looking for perfect depiction of the creature in his latest film at the time, Alien. Most people at least recognise the terrifying Xenomorph, few know who designed it.

Nothing had ever looked so extra-terrestrial. Even viewers of Star Wars in 1977 could recognise the grounded inspirations of its aliens and civilisations. In 1979, audiences were treated to something completely different. When the crew of the Nostromo set foot on the dark planet in the film, audiences felt nervous and disturbed. There was nothing familiar about the landscape, which was also designed by Giger.

The “rib cage” design, frequently seen in Giger’s work

The tension is amplified when the landing party come into view of the titanic alien ship that dominates the landscape. Audiences again felt unsettled with the unusual shape and interior, which while looking metallic and mechanic seemed more like an unearthly rib cage. This is a fantastic example of Giger’s genius bio-mechanical design.

The pinnacle of the beauty of Giger and Scott’s work was in the first sighting of the fully-grown Alien once back on board the claustrophobic Nostromo. When the Xenomorph is about to take its first victim, it stands up. The puppeteer team must have planned for the posture to be so triumphant, petrifying and strangely magnificent. At that moment, Giger knew he’d done his job. Audiences were treated to arguably the most terrifying film creature of all time.