Dumfries-based artist Selected for Bioscope Residency


Upland member and Dumfries-based visual artist Emma Varley has been selected as the newly appointed Artist in Residence at St Andrews Botanic Garden.

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'Systems Perceptive Plants' by Emma Varley
'Systems Perceptive Plants' by Emma Varley

After a nationwide call for applications led by Fife Contemporary, Dumfries-based visual artist and Upland member Emma Varley was selected to be the newly appointed Artist in Residence at St Andrews Botanic Garden. Emma was chosen for her innovative explorations 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.

Emma has said of her recent practice "Currently, I am navigating digital drawing with the use of ‘Midjourney’ an artificial intelligence rendering program, the model facilitates text prompt descriptions to generate images which can be upscaled and developed through variations. ‘Midjourney’ facilitates a glimpse into the spaces and strata between algorithms, between ones and zero’s, into unseen worlds. It is this biodiverse unseen world of fertile ground existing at St Andrews Botanic Garden powered by light and driven by photosyntheses that is so intriguing."

The residency will enable the artist to work with another innovative project being produced at St Andrews Botanic Garden, when her work will be screened in a new Bioscope pavilion being developed on site. 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, Emma will also be able to engage with this and other research work being undertaken at the gardens to explore the ecology, biodiversity and conservation of temperate habitats.

Emma Varley will be Artist in Residence at St Andrews Botanic Garden from 20th January to 31st March 2023. A screening of her work will take place in the Bioscope pavilion at the end of the residency.