Saturday, May 17, 2014


 When director Ridley Scott sought to create something magnificently horrific and challenging for film viewers at the dawning of the “Star Wars” era of film he looked to artists including; Chris Foss, Moebius  and  most strikingly Swiss Surrealist H.R. Giger. The works of Giger were unequaled in terms of their scope; sense of dread, ability to repulse as they equally intrigued and encaptured his viewers. They are with every possibility the purest examples of nightmares ever put to canvas or screen. Giger’s monochromatic creations were very much driven by his own sleep disorder (night terrors) as by his rich imagination. Giger is a technically skilled artist and draftsman with a style almost completely unto himself. There is only one H.R. Giger.

The creations and designs of Giger possess a quality of things emanating from the mind and heart of a madman. His works can be difficult for most viewers. He has referred to the hopelessly insane as being a large portion of his audience. His pieces are as many times representational of eroticism as they are a combination of a repressed violence. They are often composition of the demonic; distantly removed from anything remotely of the saints. What artist could be better suited to contribute to the horror genre films of the late 20th Century?  

“Bio-Mechanical” is a term Giger often used to describe his own creations. In that too he was singular as I know of no other artist fitting into Giger’s self-titled genre. He was able within his career to expand on many forms of creativity and cross markets. He was first of all a painter (nothing short of a master) and after that he included set design, sculpture and film director. He was very much ingrained in the music field; often as a commissioned artist. Emerson Lake and Palmer, Debbie Harry and many other musicians used Giger’s works for memorable album covers. He inspired video games and calendars while fans are noted for adorning their various body parts with Giger tattoos. His architecturally informed creations decorate interiors for night clubs and restaurants. Giger is many times over a force in the art worlds variously articulated commodities and structures.  

Earlier this week on May 12th Hans Rudolph Giger passed away from the earth. Giger was 74 years old and still engaged with his art.  His alien is one of the most terrifying creatures ever preserved on film. He will best be remembered for his alien and the sets he designed for the original Ridley Sott film. 

Humanity has looked to the darkness for generations; most often in fear. It is the keeper of mystery and visions of irrational dread. Giger shared with us his own nightmare scenarios and images in the form of stories. In that he is linked to the ages.  By taking us eerily and endearingly into his nightmares he entertained us and helped us understand and live within our own.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Arrival

These are easily some of the most fascinating and beautiful illustrations you are going to see at any time; at any place. Shaun Tan’s handsome set piece; this graphic novel, his master work of art is of a singular charm and truth of imagination.

Tan used photographs and paintings from the early twentieth century of immigration and immigrants as inspiration along with accounts and stories to inform his book. Tan encompasses family, ideology, freedom, alienation as well as acceptance and the journey of the human spirit in this epic tale. The effect is that of a silent film as the work is totally without narration, text or dialogue. Tan is in a very small fraternity with this work devoid of language that speaks eloquently with is content of image. 

The arrival is by definition a picture book. It is one best suited for adults and young readers just past the age that regular picture books begin to lose their charm. It is a work certainly sophisticated that very young readers still can enjoy; but will need some guidance with the themes; in-depth precision and spirit that the novel exhibits.

Tan has written and illustrated at least two other books of his own; The Red Tree and The Lost Thing. His self- developed animation short of The Lost Thing was impressive enough to win an Oscar for Tan in 2011. His books have won numerous awards and he has been an educator as well as a much sought after artist and illustrator by other writers and publishers. He brings a special part of himself to all of his efforts.

The Arrival is a book to be read through it’s pictures, as all images are to be read. Every picture does tell a unique story. I would also suggest playing instrumental music; something with a sound-track diversity of themes and nuance as an accompanying background. The “extra something” music brings adds to the pleasure and allure of the book. It makes for a thing uncanny and creates an even greater cinematic experience. Your understanding of the journey of this tale’s nameless protagonist as universal immigrant will ultimately be a personal reflection of insight and joy. Tan’s “Arrival” gives us something to treasure and revisit from time to time as we journey and arrive ourselves.