Otherworldly and Ominous, H.R. Giger’s encapsulating masterpieces are now on display

Otherworldly and Ominous, H.R. Giger’s encapsulating masterpieces are now on display

Above: Vincent Castiglia with HR Giger’s work.

By Rachel Galvin

Known for his futuristic airbrushed images, H.R. Giger developed a following that has continued long after he has left the earthly plane. This Swiss artist meshed man and the mechanical with seamless precision and created something new. His work was so revolutionary that it was given a new name – biomechanical. His pieces are beautiful and transfixing while at the same time horrifying, alien and mysterious. Beyond the surreal, his almost inexplicable artwork is sublime. His is a dystopian universe filled with nightmarish imagery that caters to the sci-fi and horror-loving crowd especially. After all, he was the creator of the eighth passenger in “Alien,” which won an Oscar for special effects. That was not the only film he worked on. He worked on album covers as well. 

Giger passed away in 2014, but not before inspiring and mentoring a young artist named Vincent Castiglia. He even gave the budding artist his first solo show. Today, that artist has his own studio. He is a successful tattoo artist and uses his place also as gallery space. Now, Castiglia has many of Giger’s works on display in a special exhibit featuring several original works along with prints.

Castiglia’s work, a collection entitled “Stations of Embodiment” also will be on display in a side gallery. Employing a similarly dark theme and also steeped in symbolism, his pieces are just as captivating. Channeling Michaelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” this artist puts his life force into every one of his paintings, transferring literally his own blood, sweat, and possibly tears, to the canvas. The canvas itself is even composed of material from the same paper company Michaelangelo himself once used. Castiglia has an RN take vials of blood from him to use as his medium, from which he creates monochromatic masterpieces. He said this collection of artworks show the stations of humanity, epiphany or transcendence. 

His arresting piece “The Sleep” hits you like a ton of bricks leaving you awestruck at the skill used to create it and the symbolism behind it. The figures on the oversized canvas are posed like a Pieta, with what appears to be Pan, or a devil, holding a decomposing mortal man helplessly asleep in his arms, “cradled by the blind force of Typhon.” Seeds fall upward from his head toward Nature’s god above him. Everything is topsy turvy and man knows not what he truly is. “You can’t have light without darkness,” Castiglia said. This is just one of the masterful pieces on display.

Asked his process for its creation, he said. “I draw it first. Each art piece takes three weeks to three months.”

His piece called “Feeding,” like “The Sleep” is set up with one figure cradling the other. In this case it is a woman in a wheelchair who is decomposing yet nurtures a newborn, holding him or her up to her breast for sustenance when she cannot even sustain herself anymore. Set like “The Sleep” in a natural background with flora and fauna, it indicates the natural way of things, man’s, or in this case woman’s, humanity and the cycle of life.

Castiglia appropriately came from Hell’s Kitchen in New York here to South Florida a year ago and many of his clients have followed him here, clamoring for his tattoo art. He spent 23 years in the Big Apple honing his skills. But his artwork and the fact of how it is made is what truly captivated this reporter. 

Yet, this humble artist wants to throw the focus more on his mentor, Giger, who he met in the Czech Republic. He worked on two shows with him and then eventually his first solo show in 2008. Giger’s agent became his agent. Replicating some of Giger’s work creates some of his best tattoos, he said. “Giger was a dear friend and mentor” and he said he is honored to show homage to him and expose his work and originals in what is the first solo show of his work. Being with him, he said, was like “sitting at the feet of a shaman,” and he said that Giger was “communicating something with a structural truth,” and his work was divinely inspired. It is hard to believe a man created such imagery, he added. 

Castiglia started doing art at a young age. It was something he said he did “relentlessly” and that he did a lot of drawings. He found, like a lot of artists, that artistic creation was quite a catharsis for everyday life. Using blood as a medium was a way of presenting truth, including his own personal truth, onto the canvas. He called it “transforming oneself into the content” and a “direct window into the psyche.”

Castiglia got a chance to work on an album cover for Triptykon, which Giger also worked on. Giger was on the cover and Castiglia’s work was on the inside. He did not want to create vague imagery, so he interviewed each person in the band to get a sense of who they were and what they valued before doing the portraits of each. It was a mix of their personalities and specific entities he assigned to each.

He also did a portrait of Gregg Allman, of the Allman Brothers, made out of the blood of Gregg and his children. It was hung in his studio. 

There is nothing shallow about Castiglia’s artwork. They are imbrued with much symbolism, as the artist himself seems to be grappling with life’s mysteries, the eternal energy that is neither created nor destroyed, the butterfly effect that proves interconnectedness among all beings, the primordial reasoning beneath it all … love?

“It’s been an ineffable honor to be a mere emissary of displaying Giger’s work to the region.” 

Stephen Romano curated the show that is currently on display and the show will be available for viewing until Feb. 28 by appointment only. There will be a closing night party at the gallery at 2227 S. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale.on the 23rd from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information and to schedule a viewing or RSVP, visit www.vincentcastigliagallery.com.

Next, Castiglia will have Burton C. Bell’s work on display. Bell does the vocals behind Fear Factory and it is the first exhibit of his photography. It will be held on March 11. 

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