Canadian Silk Painter Jean-Louis Mireault
The ancient method of silk making began sometime between 3500 and 2000 BC with the use of silkworm moth cocoons to produce cloth. It is believed that the ancient technique of painting on silk began in around 470 BC during the Neolithic period by the Hans dynasty who used it for recording on scrolls. It remained as an art in China for approximately a thousand years, until the later part of the first millennium BC when the Silk Road was opened, spreading the skills to other lands. This artistic expression later developed to include mythical creatures and human forms on silk.
Around 300 AD the art of silk painting travelled to Japan. During the crusades, in the 1200s, silk production began to spread to many states in Italy. By the Middle Ages changes in the way it was manufactured, with the invention of the spinning wheel, allowed silk production to extend to other areas in Western Europe. Later in the 1300s, artists began using colour on silk. By the 1800s the beginning of the industrial revolution made silk available to many parts of the world.
From this long history around the world, artists have brought the skill of silk painting to Canada as they settled here from other countries. This has led to a flourishing community of painters across Canada, lending their own interpretations to the designs they create. At The Shop, we have presented several works from Canadian artists over the years. One of our long-term suppliers has been Jean-Louis Mireault from Verchères, Quebec.
In 1978, Jean-Louis Mireault began painting on silk. His wife was his early teacher who insisted that he create from his own images and artistic talent. The process has not changed over the years. Perfected in France the technique was referred to as ‘Serti’ or ‘gutta resist’. All lines in the chosen drawings are still drawn on paper and then this paper is placed under the silk and copied with a pencil overtop of the silk. Using brushes, the artist places the French silk dyes to create the beautiful colours. The pencil marks fade within a day and what is left is art. The process does not stop here. Though silk is the strongest natural fibre for its weight, even stronger than steel, the painted silk gains durability by leaving it in a professional steamer for approximately four hours. Then it is washed, ironed and stretched on a wooden frame to create silk paintings.
Mireault also uses the process of ‘batik’ to create beautifully coloured shapes that adorn his silk scarves. This is a wax-resist dyeing technique that is applied to the entire piece of silk. A technique that originated in Indonesia.
In 2002, Mireault was honoured with a medal for his significant artistic contribution in Canada which was presented to him by Queen Elizabeth II on her Golden Jubilee Year visit.
Mireault has participated in many art exhibits in France, Portugal, Spain, U.S.A. and Tunisia. He was recognized in 2011 by SPIN (Silk Painters International) as a Master Silk Painter. A great honour for the artist who has been creating art for over forty years.
As one of our silk artists in The Shop For All Reasons, Mireault’s beautiful scarves and wraps are well recognized and appreciated as beautiful wearable art.