Giger was born in 1940 in Chur, capital city of Graubünden, the largest and easternmost Swiss canton. His father, a chemist, viewed art as a "breadless profession" and strongly encouraged him to enter pharmaceutics, Giger recalls. Yet he moved in 1962 to Zürich, where he studied Architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts until 1970.
Giger started with small ink drawings before progressing to oil paintings. For most of his career, Giger had worked predominantly in airbrush, creating monochromatic canvasses depicting surreal, nightmarish dreamscapes. However, he then largely abandoned large airbrush works in favor of works with pastels, markers or ink.
Giger's most distinctive stylistic innovation was that of a representation of human bodies and machines in a cold, interconnected relationship, he described as "biomechanical". His main influences were painters Ernst Fuchs and Salvador Dalí. He met Salvador Dalí, to whom he was introduced by painter Robert Venosa. He was also a personal friend of Timothy Leary. Giger studied interior and industrial design at the School of Commercial Art in Zurich (from 1962 to 1965) and made his first paintings as a means of art therapy.
Entrance to Giger Bar in Chur
Ibanez H. R. Giger signature bass and guitars
In the 1960s and 1970s, Giger directed a number of films, including Swiss Made (1968), Tagtraum (1973), Giger's Necronomicon (1975) and Giger's Alien (1979).
Giger created furniture designs, particularly the Harkonnen Capo Chair for a movie of the novel Dune that was to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Many years later, David Lynch directed the film, using only rough concepts by Giger. Giger had wished to work with Lynch, as he stated in one of his books that Lynch's film Eraserhead was closer than even Giger's own films to realizing his vision.
Giger applied his biomechanical style to interior design. One "Giger Bar" sprang up in Tokyo, but the realization of his designs were a great disappointment to the artist, since the Japanese organization behind the venture did not wait for his final designs, but decided to move ahead with nothing more than Giger's rough preliminary sketches. For that reason, Giger disowned the Tokyo Giger Bar and never set foot inside. Within a few years, the establishment was out of business. The two Giger Bars in his native Switzerland (in Gruyères and Chur), however, were built under Giger's close personal supervision and reflect his original concepts for them accurately. At The Limelight in Manhattan, Giger's artwork was licensed to decorate the VIP room, the uppermost chapel of the landmarked church, but it was never intended to be a permanent installation and bore no similarity to the real Giger Bars in Switzerland. The arrangement was terminated after two years when the Limelight closed its doors.As of 2009 only the two authentic Swiss Giger Bars remain.
Giger's art has greatly influenced tattooists and fetishists worldwide. Under a licensing deal Ibanez guitars released an H. R. Giger signature series: the Ibanez ICHRG2, an Ibanez Iceman, features "NY City VI", the Ibanez RGTHRG1 has "NY City XI" printed on it, the S Series SHRG1Z has a metal-coated engraving of "Biomechanical Matrix" on it, and a 4-string SRX bass, SRXHRG1, has "N.Y. City X" on it,
Giger is often referred to in popular culture, especially in science fiction and cyberpunk. William Gibson (who wrote an early script for Alien 3) seems particularly fascinated: A minor character in Virtual Light, Lowell, is described as having New York XXIV tattooed across his back, and in Idoru a secondary character, Yamazaki, describes the buildings of nanotech Japan as Giger-esque.
On 12 May 2014, Giger died in a hospital in Zürich after having suffered injuries in a fall down a flight of stairs.