“LI I”, H. R. GIGER, 1974 – #illusthursday

Meat and metal, humans and machines joined together in disturbing creatures who give us their coldest glaze; the dark, twisted, biomechanical world of Swiss artist Hans Rudolf Giger.

Here we admire Li I, the first portrait the artist made of his first wife (and melancholic muse), Swiss actress Li Tobler; she committed suicide when she was only 27, leaving a dark mark upon Giger’s life. Besides the facial features, we know the identity of this ethereal woman from the name “Li”, carved in the chocker. She is part of a mysterious, occult world we cannot be part of. Two key elements, often drawn in presence of Li, are the skulls and the snake; this could represent the depression she suffered of or, as a magic symbol, wisdom and protection (as it’s the only white element in the painting). The horns or extensions of herself seem to be consuming her face. The look is distant, a glint of life that comes from another world; human or mechanical?

Allegedly, Li was shocked when she first saw this painting; furious, she broke the frame and teared the canvas.

Li is the prototype for the many ethereal women in his paintings who peer forth from the torment of snakes, needles and stifling bone prisons – to a world beyond. Giger painted Li’s body several times with an airbrush and there are several photographs of her posing naked – like a woman of mystery struggling to emerge from the nightmare that has possessed her soul.

– Nevill Drury, who interviewed Giger in 1985 (Shadowzone # 5).

Even though other women influenced the artist, the mix of agony and joy that Li brought into Giger’s life left a strong mark (“the dynamic of fear and transcendence”) in his art.

A multiform talent: painter, illustrator, graphic designer, sculptor, set designer, Oscar winner. Among the fathers of the dark, horrific world of Alien (the sci-fi horror movie by Ridley Scott), forever impressing in the viewers’ minds the iconic monster he designed. Inspired by the illustrious of the past (Gothic architecture, flemish painters such as William Blake, Arnold Böcklin the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Surrealist painters such as Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí), anticipator of the 70/80s Biomechanical Surrealism; with his half organic and half mechanical creatures, Giger continues today to disturb and fascinate people all over the world.

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