Welcome back y’all. Lots of new and interesting changes going on here at the Speakeasy Tattoo domain. I don’t want to spoil too much just yet but just know that times they are a changing as that one nasally guy says.
So I have been going over various artists which I consider to be my biggest influences. This week I want to touch on that but as well touch on what we call trends. It’s no secret there at there are trends in tattooing some of which stay some of which flash out as quick as they flash on to the scene. Currently weird doodle looking black work seems to be extremely trendy. Especially on Instagram. That and black old English lettering. Usually a year. Were you born in 1999? Get an old english 1999 tattoo on your chest. Not too big though....just like 3 inches.
For those of us that remember the 90s there was a trend called biomech. This is the type of tattooing that would usually make the wearers arm look like some sort of hybrid of an organic alien and a robot. For the most part this has gone out of trend but it still lingers on. Biomech would not exist were not for one insane Swiss artist. Known by his art at a glance by one name.
You may not know who he is (whats wrong with you?) but you know his work. And if you know his work do you know how it changed not only the face of surrealist art but horror movies in general. 1979‘s alien directed by ridley Scott, for all intents and purposes was going to be a terrible schlock B-movie. Were it not for the incredible and unique visual langue brought to the truly alien world of the Xenomprph, Alien would be forgotten like Xtro. All from the nightmares of Hans Ruedi Giger.
And before we move on, it’s pronounced Geeg-ur not Guy-ger.
Giger was born in Switzerland in the heights of WWII, 1940. Luckily, Switzerland bolstered an impressive home army as well as literal defense traps that would make a ground invasion near impossible, so in spite of being dead center in Nazi occupied Europe, Hitler respected Switzerland’s neutrality. We can get into the complicity of the Swiss banks and their profiteering off the Nazi regime but let’s not go there today. His father was a pharmacist who discouraged any artistic path and in his youth Giger entered his compulsory military service, serving as what is known as a “Gebirgsjäger” (literary translating to hunter of the mountains), an elite infantry unit who specialized in mountainous warfare.
After his service he entered the Zurich School of Applied Arts where he studied architecture and industrial design, something where he could still channel his artistic skills but apply it in a more “legitimate” way. The shadow of the father looms heavy.
While he was enjoying moderate acclaim and hosted his first solo show in 1966, it wasn’t until 1969 that he began to see commercial success when the publisher of Switzerland’s first poster publishing companies began to distribute posters of his work.
In 1974, he was tapped to do production design for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ambitious adaptation of the novel Dune. And while ultimately this production never came to pass some of his design elements were carried over for the 1984 David Lynch adaptation which subsequently went on to become one of my favorite movies of all time. And while David Lynch‘s version is certainly what I would consider a perfect film, it would’ve been nice to have seen Giger‘s design elements put to screen at the early date. Lynch's film utilized elements of Giger's designs but sparingly, not to the extent that would have been present in the Jodorowsky version. Ironically, Giger would later go on to express regret that he never worked with David Lynch, stating that Lynch's Eraserhead was the closest thing to bringing Giger's visions to reality.
It was in 1976, however, that Gieger got his real true break. The aforementioned movie Alien. I can think of no other film in movie history with a stronger visual language than that of the Alien franchise and that is directly a result of Gieger‘s work, based mostly off of his book Necronomicon. The Alien production wasn't just based off his work, he was brought in to bring his paintings to life.
Giger had a way to make the surreal and horrific beautiful. He’s cool toned acrylic and airbrush horrorscapes are truly something to behold in person. No reproduction of his work can do it justice by any means. When asked why he paints such a bizarre horrific scenes he explains that since he was a child he was plagued with horrific nightmares to the point of him not wanting to go to sleep. He found that painting these nightmares helped him control or feel power over them. The nightmares remained but now he was the master. Looking at his paintings one can only imagine how terrifying these nightmares truly would have been to a young child.
Giger is not without controversy however. Much of his work is extremely sexual in nature featuring what many would consider “deviant” motifs. Hell, think of the Xenomorph. The head is extremely phallic, in fact his original portrayal in the Necronomicon the head itself actually did take the form of a gigantic penis. The face huggers in alien as well have very obvious sexual overtones. It was with the band the Dead Kennedys and Tipper Gore’ PMRC “moral majority” that these sexual overtones were brought up in court. The album Frankenchrist featured a poster of Giger’s painting entitled....well.... I’ll just let Wikipedia’s description explain it to you “Penis Landscape, or Work 219: Landscape XX, is a painting by H. R. Giger. Created in 1973, airbrushed acrylic on paper-covered wood, it measures 70 by 100 centimetres. It depicts a number of penises entering vaginas, arranged in an alternating pattern. One is wearing a condom.” The resulting obscenity lawsuit would almost run Alternative Tentacles (the album label run by Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra) into the ground.
Regardless, Giger’s work has been featured in album covers from Danzig to ELO. Sadly, he passed in 2014 at the age of 74 after suffering from a fall. His legacy, however, will maintain a massive influence on countless artists.
I think that’s enough for today. Go put on some Danzig. Go watch Alien. Enjoy your weekend.