As far as we know, a swimming pool is one of the few things Edinburgh’s new hotel and members club, Gleneagles Townhouse, doesn’t have.

It’s a shame, because you might be in the mood to make a splash after seeing the pieces from their first exhibition, which runs from today until August 29.

Edinburgh-based artist Soo Burnell’s Bodies of Water show is open to members, residents and those visiting their all-day restaurant, The Spence, and hangs in a white, paneled space to the left of the entrance . This show has just returned from a tour in New York, and the footage also features in his book, To The Water, which came out last year.

Soo Burnell Photo: Maria Portway

Gleneagles Townhouse approached Burnell directly and says they chose her because her work challenges the building’s once-conservative past when it operated as a bank. We can’t imagine many of the high-flying men, who feature bust-length in the former bank lobby, now a restaurant, have ever donned a pair of Speedos.

“I’m so honored to be the first artist to exhibit in this amazing new space at Gleneagles Townhouse. I’m truly touched that they’ve taken the time to connect and support local artists,” Burnell said. hung the exhibit last week and chatted with visitors about the work, my linen print styles and the stories behind the beautiful pools. I look forward to meeting many more people there over the next few weeks.”

Most of the snaps on display were taken before the lockdown and celebrate Edinburgh’s collection of Victorian swimming pools. Burnell’s first pool shoot was at Glenogle in Stockbridge, in 2018.

“This is the pool I learned to swim in as a child and used to go there during summer vacation. I really didn’t appreciate the architecture of the space then; I only really noticed it once I came back as an adult to photograph it,” she says. “I spent years jumping in and out of this pool without paying attention to the high ceilings, the rows of changing rooms flanking the pool, or the scale or grandeur of the space.”

Alone at the Western Baths, Soo Burnell

She also took photos of Drumsheugh Baths, Portobello, Warrender, Leith Victoria and Dalry.

“I began photographing other iconic Edinburgh pools with the intention of capturing their striking architecture and, by contrast, the stillness within them. I wanted to show the architectural beauty of these spaces. historic, while downplaying all the modern elements,” says Burnell.

“I like their scale, the sense of space, the high ceilings and signage, the geometry of the tiles, the typography, the lines on the bottom of the pool, as well as the color scheme and the light, and then all reflected in calm water.

Following the success of those earlier shots, Burnell traveled beyond his hometown of Edinburgh to shoot at the Western Baths Club in Glasgow, the Victoria Baths in Manchester and the magnificent Molitor Pool in Paris. For fans of wild swimming, the series has also been extended to outdoor locations, with filming at Tyninghame Beach and Tarlair Swimming Pool outside Macduff, Aberdeenshire, although not all of its collection is part of the Gleneagles Townhouse show. .

After swimming Tyninghame, Soo Burnell

Some of the shots have been described as Wes Anderson-esque. This director, behind films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch, is a huge influence, along with other names in cinema.

“Recently I’ve turned to the cinematic imagery of other directors such as Terrence Malick, Stanley Kubrick and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. They all have great attention to detail,” says Burnell, who is currently working on another project that involves photos from the capital.” I thought the images of Bong Joon-ho in Parasite were also amazing. I love the work of architectural photographer Julius Shulman. His book, A Constructed View, is magnificent. Californian architecture, as well as Impressionist painting and composition, have also long been my influences.

The Bodies of Water plays are a far cry from the actual scenes of kids bombing in the pool, lane hoggers and rescued goggles, and it’s odd to see, but not hear, a pool, as they’re usually accompanied by amplified echoes and cries of excitement.

So they also evoke a meditative feeling, with that diffused light that comes from Victorian cupolas, alongside the neat symmetry of those familiar 19th century buildings.

Western Baths Swim Team, Soo Burnell

There are subjects in most of the images, all of whom are wearing bathing caps and vintage swimsuits in tones that echo or accentuate the colors of their surroundings. Most of these anonymous-looking models are out of the pool – sitting on the edge, standing on a diving board or disappearing into a changing cabin. The water is mostly completely still except for occasional ripples. It makes you want to break the surface.

Gleneagles Townhouse says; “It’s a privilege to share Soo’s much-admired works from our new home in Edinburgh – it’s exactly the one we envisioned to help us celebrate the diversity of the arts and culture scene we’re blessed with. have in this town. We think his beautiful collection will be extremely popular with members and guests alike and we look forward to seeing it all come to life throughout August.

Girl in Tarlair, Soo Burnell
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