Smadar Shefi, Ha’aretz

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Smadar Shefi (translated by Adina Newberg)
Ha’aretz, April 13, 2005
Stuart Shils—Paintings
Curator: Israel Hershberg
Gallery 33
33 Yehuda Halevy Street, Tel-Aviv, Israel

The visitor who enters to Gallery 33 in Tel-Aviv on Yehuda Halevy St., will feel a sharp contrast between the busy, dirty and noisy street both visually and vocally, and will thus be enveloped in quiet and calm prevailing in the gallery’s exhibit. The charming painting exhibition of Stuart Shils displayed there, broadcasts a sense of lightness and purity. The small paintings of green and distant landscapes hang in the gallery that has suitably been painted in light gray, possibly like a smiling statement of irony towards the modernist tradition of the "white cube."

The excellent quality of the works in the exhibit is immediately noticeable. This is especially so when one looks directly at the paintings and not at their reproductions in the catalogue. The paintings are reminiscent, of many landscape paintings created by American and European painters from the end of the 19 th Century till today.

Shils paints small paintings that create a reverse effect to the position of an observer in nature, where such an observer would get swallowed by that which is bigger than him. In the paintings the individual’s presence in relation to the painting is stressed. By doing so Shils accentuates the autonomy of the artistic creation and the fact that in spite of the fact that the paintings are figurative and have been created outdoors (plein air) they are not a copy of what is seen but represent a process of observation and translation.

Shils, a native of Philadelphia, who paints in Ireland each summer, creates in the tradition of the figurative—impressionistic art. His exhibit in Israel is part of the extraordinary flourishing of this kind of painting, and the interest that has developed around it since the beginning of the 90s. The curator of the exhibit is Israel Hershberg, an excellent figurative painter himself, among the leaders of this genre in Israel today and the founder of the Jerusalem Studio School His activity as a teacher and the director of the school contributed much to the awakening of figurative art and to the coalescing of a circle of artists who have developed expertise in this field. Among the noted ones are Eldar Praver, Shira Avidor, Aram Gershuni and David Nipo. Now Hershberg brings to Israel the works of Shils who participated last year (and is supposed to participate this year as well) in a workshop dedicated the teaching of landscape painting in this school.

Hershberg takes advantage of the exhibit’s small catalogue to express sharp criticism against what he defines as the "parasitic fervor” of the theoreticians, critics, academicians, and the gangs of complicit artists who follow them with the zeal of crusaders against figurative art. In an emotional statement he calls: "let’s not allow the words to separate the observer from the experience of art." He also doesn’t hesitate to state that Shils’s exhibit is the “most beautiful little exhibit in memory having arrived to Tel Aviv."