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Welcoming our Artist in Residence Emma Varley

Reading Time 1 minute and 40 seconds
Date 25 January 2023

We’re delighted to be working with Fife Contemporary to welcome our new Artist in Residence to the Garden!

After a nationwide call for applications, Dumfries-based illustrator Emma Varley was selected as our Artist in Residence. Varley was chosen for her innovative use of AI technology to create images of plants, and her interest in asking questions about what AI means for our understanding of what is natural and what is synthetic. She likens generating AI illustrations to the process of evolution and cultivation of visual forms, and describes her use of the technology as a means of facilitating "a glimpse into unseen worlds."

Fife Contemporary Director, Kate Grenyer, says “AI has suddenly become a very active topic in the world of visual art, design and particularly digital illustration and craft. Emma is embracing the possibilities for illustrators created by this new and fast progressing technology. Having time to work in St Andrews Botanic Garden will allow her to expand on her theme of how images are both constructed and experienced in relation to how we construct and experience nature. I’m delighted that Fife Contemporary are able to put this partnership together.”

Varley’s work will have strong links with another innovative project at the Garden. It will be screened in our new Bioscope Pavilion – a living structure designed and built by Marcos Cruz and Brenda Parker from the Bartlett School of Architecture. The Bioscope tests the limits of designing with nature, using Engineered Living Materials to make a building for projections and screenings that is alive with microscopic biodiversity. As a resident artist, Varley will be able to engage with this and other research work being undertaken at the Garden, exploring the ecology, diversity and conservation of temperate plants and ecosystems.

Harry Watkins, Director of St Andrews Botanic Garden, says “Emma’s innovative approaches help us see nature in a different light, responding to the materials in the Bioscope botanical diversity in the Garden and finding new insights about how we can understand what’s otherwise hard to see. We’re excited about the Artist in Residence partnership between Fife Contemporary and St Andrews Botanic Garden being a platform for people to test and engage with unique, thought-provoking experiences.”

Emma Varley will be Artist in Residence at St Andrews Botanic Garden from 26th January to 31st March 2023. A screening of her work will take place in the Bioscope pavilion at the end of the residency.

Images by Emma Varley.

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