Narrative In Art

A Cluster of Interesting Thinking

H.R. Giger

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H.R Giger is a painter, sculpture, and creature designer for film, who was born on February 5,1940, into the house of Aquarius. Giger had very kind parents, who allowed him to pursue whatever career he wished. His father had wanted him to take over the family pharmacy but his son was not a good student and his Latin was so bad, he thought it not a good idea. Giger remembers the first moment of fascination for art. In 1944, American soldiers would come to his home to rest and to heal their ankles from skiing accidents. They gave little Giger magazines to look at. There was one that caught his eye, it was ‘Life Magazine’. He lovingly remembers seeing pictures of Cocteau’s film, “Beauty and the Beast” . This was his first experience with the art world.  Later after his father received a skull, Giger took possession of it immediately making this his first contact with death itself.
Arthur Schonpenhauer writes in Essays and Aphorisms that if the artist is obvious about the art being made or “fakeness” then the piece is a point in time which has an eternal quality. All of Giger’s paintings demonstrate this “fakeness”. His subjects portrayed are certainly made from his imagination and are a picture of a frame of one of his nightmares. Giger began engaging with this fakeness of death from the beginning of his artistic career. Giger began to use painting and drawing as a source of therapy for his constant nightmares.

One of Giger’s most famous paintings is the Birth Machine in 1967. Some say living on 17 Storchengasse Street, meaning Stork Street, inspired him to do this work. “My paintings express all kinds of themes and often my feelings. Most of the time there is no ‘message’ attached to them. For example, The ‘Birth Machine’ is a slice through of a Walther P38 pistol. You see the barrel, and instead of bullets there are little men with large glasses. They sit there with a weapon in their hands. This weapon is a  weapon with a magazine, and in that magazine are more pistols with magazines. This means that you can go deeper and deeper. “With this, I wanted to illustrate the enormous population explosion which is happening. All unpleasant things come from the fact that there are too many people on this planet.” Said H.R. Giger. Even as he says this there can be a lot of different interpretations to this piece. Some believe that this is about over population and that it is also about the psychological effect of traumatic birth. Others believe the piece was about not birthing humans but birthing soldiers. Giger is ok with this. He wants people to find and make their own ideas of his work. Maybe there is something there that is subconscious to him but noticeable by others.

“The Magus” was a dedication to his friend Friederich Kuhn who died in 1972. The artwork was completed in 1975 and was made with acrylic on paper on wood. This piece of art is 200×140 which made it huge. Friederich Kuhn was an artist and a dear friend to Giger. The main thing he remembered about his friend is how he played the organ. That was his main inspiration for this piece. He remembered the music that his friend played and transferred what he heard onto the canvas.  Giger took a picture of his friend a half a year before Kuhn died and used that to change it into the figure Magus. The man in the long cloth is thought to be Kuhn being drawn to his resting place. The creatures around him seem to be the ones taking him to where the darkness is. Bones and the spine are highlighted in this art with smoke and maggots. The dark colors used in this piece are to show the tones of death and despair; the feelings he had while painting this. The fading background is to give the impression that no one knows where they are or where their going in death. This is that point in time that lives for ever that Schonpenhauer writes about. Maybe the two creatures are wandering around just like Kuhn.  This is a very personal painting of Giger.
It is surprising that this is an acrylic painting because it is so soft, smooth, and delicate that it would seem to have been airbrushed or made of oil paint. The hooded man has a very fuzzy and soft look with the light browns and dark greens being mixed. It’s a tall and unsettling figure but still seems to strike fear even though it might feel soft to the touch. The two creatures along side the man are very feminine in structure and have a sharp and dangerous feel to them. The creature in the upper right hand corner has a distinct sway where her shoulders almost seem like they might have dislocated from her neck, but not enough so that it is disturbing. The creature on the lower right hand side has an alien like face and ribs that stick out on all sides even out of its back. These two creatures seem as though they could easily snatch you up and eat you if you dare come near but have such a coy look about them that you’d be tempted to do such. The two creatures also are very shinny with darker tones of brown, green, and some blues. The lower creature has its hand on what looks like a horn and inside it is what looks like maggots. Smoke is billowing out of the horn which might be from the idea of burning to ashes. The light from the horn and from the upper right hand side seems to be used as a devise to keep your eye looking up at the left side then going down to the dark and going back up on the right; like a circle.

The artwork named “Li I” was done for Giger’s first wife, an actress, named Li. He doesn’t give Li a last name when he talks about her, and one can only wonder why. Li was his wife for a short period of time before she committed suicide. She had been fighting with it for some time going in and out of depression. Giger remembers finding her body and an empty bottle of pills by her side. She was a huge inspiration for him. He has her in most of his feminine  paintings. “Li I’ is identified as her because on her choker it says “ Li”. In a lot of paintings to do with Li there is always presnt a snake and skulls. The snake is either the depression that was slithering through her mind, since the snake is always on her person and her head, or it is actually the little bit of reality left in her mind as the skulls are her depression instead. Giger is into the occult and magic. In the occult the serpent stands for wisdom and protection, so maybe that is what he meant by the serpent in the painting, it is also the only white pure thing in the picture. Whatever the case, the horns or extensions of herself seem to be consuming her face, another continuous trait in Li paintings. Is it also consuming her mind? Her soul? Her eyes are a smokey grey hue but there is still a glint of life. Giger says that people find that his art is very violent, grotesque, sexual, and crowded. He doesn’t disagree but says, if you look carefully you will see the most important part, a glimmer of light and hope.

As was stated earlier, Giger is into the occult but he also likes to include other religions into his artwork. Whether it was to upset the Christian community or meant to be a symbolic joke, he created “Satan I”. In this piece Satan is holding the Crucified Jesus in one hand and a string with a host wafer in the other. The Christian Lord’s arms are the frame of a slingshot being aimed at the viewing audience. Could this mean that Satan is behind feeding the Christians their beliefs or is he force feeding the wafer to the audience?  Satan has three tails, one of a screaming banshee, one of an upper jawed lizard and another of a skull wearing a top hat. Does this represent the Trinity? There seems to be a fourth face hiding at the curve where the top hat and lizard meet. Is this the presence of Evil still in the world?  Beyond all the satirical symbolism of this piece, Giger states that a profound encounter with the shadow (Satan) in the form of soul, temptation, or darkness is a prerequisite for a spiritual opening.

A piece, “Baphomet” continues with the religious theme. Giger uses this figure Baphomet in many of his paintings. Baphomet means Father of Knowledge. Baphe and metis means baptism of wisdom. It was originally Pan, the god of fertility and wisdom. Also, Baphomet has ties associated with satanic cults. Giger remembers this because he wanted to represent evil, good, light, dark, male, and female sexual energies. This figure is not the only symbolism in this piece that represents wisdom. The two intertwined snakes represent wisdom as well as medical help. Giger liked the fact that he used a double pentagram in this picture as well as other paintings that have to do with Baphomet. The woman in this piece is pure white and seems to be a glowing, charging energy down to the two snakes and the six chargers at her side. It also looks like she is on a track, moving up or down, going somewhere other than here. Once again we see that eternal reference to a point in time. “The idea for the Baphomet came from the guts,” Giger said “I did it quickly without thinking”.  Giger does a lot of his art subconsciously but still with great thought.
In conclusion all his paintings represent experiences. From childhood to a lover’s suicide, from his dreams to his subconscious, from actual friendships and marriage to memories of such, we are now in Giger’s world. The statement of          The Truth is the whole in the writing of        is demonstrated in H.R. Giger’s work. The subjects and paintings of Giger are a development of the experiences in his life and the emotional effects they have had on him, plus the impact of his dreams on his mind and imagination. Only at the end will Giger know what he truly thinks and believes.


Written by narrativeinart

March 3, 2011 at 8:45 pm

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