swiss artists

HR Giger in his dining room in his home outside Zurich, where he sits with a burnt effigy of himself. From a 1986 issue of NewLook magazine, accompanied by the following text:

I find the macabre to be singularly exciting,” says Hans Rudi Giger. The winner of an Oscar for his creepy production design of Alien, Giger, a master of the horrific, has transformed his dining room into a mausoleum. Surrounded by his hideous creations, he likes to receive guests while wearing a mask.

Other designers have a tendency to envision interior architecture as a reflection of their innermost obsessions. It’s certainly evident in the case of Swiss artist Hans Rudi Giger, who won an Oscar for his production design of the sci-fi thriller Alien. Giger lives near Zurich, in a house whose shutters remain tightly closed. He wears only black, which matches the walls of his inner sanctum. The place has all the gaiety of a crypt.

Giving his grand tour, Giger displays a properly sepulchral comportment. He points out various skeletons, which seem to be the dominant decorative motif. “Oh, yes,” he remarks, “the market for morbidity has risen sharply.” Giger’s tastes have not always been shared by his romantic partners. One wife left him long ago.

Giger claims that ever since his childhood, when he was surrounded by skeletons in the family pharmacy, he has been hearing voices. He is used to them now and knows what precautions to take. Each room in his house has at least two emergency exits. The shower stall has three: one to the wine cellar, one to the basement, and one to the bedroom. The Giger bedroom is a sort of hermit’s cave lined with his books, drawings, and paintings against the blackness. Here he spends wakeful nights devouring macabre and grisly literature. Once he feels sufficiently disturbed, he seizes his airbrush and splatters his nightmares onto canvas. Such expulsions of his personal demons have made him wealthy indeed.

Speaking in the soft Grisons dialect, his face hidden behind a mask of perforated sheet metal, Giger calls his guests to the table. The table is made of glass and human skulls and is piled high with meat and bones for the snacking. One dines surrounded by the host’s original paintings: rotting corpses, gaping wounds, bloodied freaks, monsters, and scenes of unbearable agony. “Diabolical, isn’t it?” chuckles Giger. “Have some Chianti?”