Gerard Brown, Philadelphia Weekly

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Gerard Brown Philadelphia Weekly, November 12, 1997
Stuart Shils’ "Recent Landscape Paintings"
Mangel Gallery
1714 Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, everything appears to have been stripped of its earthly presence and looks like a foggy apparition hovering in space. Then I put on my glasses. In those intervening moments—when all I can make out is that there’s an object over there which fills this much space—I feel like I’m living in one of Stuart Shils’ tiny, precisely made paintings. By "precise," I don’t mean that Shils delineates every shingle on a house in the distance. Rather, that he makes the color of that house sit exactly where it wants to in pictorial space. So what if a geyser of white paint occasionally intervenes on the surface? At least you know in that blurry sort of way where it is so you can begin to be engaged by what it is. But the real beauty of Shils’ painting lies in his transformation of ordinary landscapes into tonal poem which never seem to get tripped up by the awkward machinery of painting. No matter how thickly Shils applies his paint, it sits in space like shimmering blobs of reflected light, and, to me, that moment of confusion between paint and light is the most beautiful thing you’ll see on any given day. With or without your glasses.