Emma Varley: Bioscope Artist in Residence

20th January to 31st March 2023

After a nationwide call for applications, Dumfries-based visual artist Emma Varley was selected to be the newly appointed Artist in Residence at St Andrews Botanic Garden. Varley 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.

‘Glass Heart’ from Perceptive Plant Series December, 2022 by Emma Varley

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, Varley 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.

‘Morning Glory’ from Perceptive Plant Series December, 2022 by Emma Varley

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.”


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.

Meet the Artist

Emma Varley will be at St Andrews Botanic Garden’s Big Spring Bash on Saturday 25th March from 12 – 4pm. Drop in to see some of her work, gain insight into AI programs such as Midjourney and DALL-E2, and enjoy the atmosphere of the weekend!

Bioscope Screening + In Conversation

Emma Varley, Fife Contemporary Artist in Residence at St Andrews Botanic Garden, will be screening work created during the residency at the new Bioscope in the gardens on Friday 30th June 2023. There will also be an opportunity to meet the artist and explore the gardens.

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