Cultus Lake artist Max Newhouse is extremely passionate about the Canadian flag.
He is over-the-top and gushingly positive about the maple leaf design, its perfection, and organic Canadian symbolism.
To celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the flag to the very day, he is hosting a one-day art show on Cultus Lake beach on Feb. 15.
Newhouse will be unpacking a compelling series of leaf-related artwork he’s had in storage for 40 years. And he is dedicating the entire show to the unsung hero of this tale: the graphic artist who completed the maple leaf design, Jacques St-Cyr.
“I’m very passionate about the flag,” Newhouse tells The Progress.
“It’s who I am. I’m over the top about a few things in life, and this is one of them.
“I love my flag. I just think it’s so beautiful, probably the most beautiful flag in the world.”
He’s taken his single-leaf inspired acrylic paintings and watercolours out of the crawlspace, and is ready to put on a unique art show, Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag.
“There is no other flag in the world that you could apply this artistic twist of the four seasons to,” he said.
It’s a one-time chance for Chilliwackians to see the iconic maple leaf in a whole new light.
The paint is applied in minimal way. There are no visible brush strokes. He even registered the copyright of the design with the help of a lawyer back in the day.
“It’s not trying to be expressive. It’s more like a piece of poetry than a painting.”
The budding artist was just 17 when he saw the image of the new Canadian flag for the very first time. An image of the beautiful maple leaf jumped out at him from a printed page in his daily newspaper.
It was the first time he ever set eyes on St. Cyr’s strikingly lovely maple leaf design.
Ten years later he had the creative epiphany to do a series of treatments on the maple leaf, with the first capturing spring as a tender baby maple leaf.
“I was on a bus going to work,” he remembered. “It just occurred to me what a great idea.”
The idea was depicting the soon-to-be iconic maple leaf differently in each of the four seasons, “as a living flag.”
It wasn’t like the art he was used to making.
“I love conceptual art, and pop art but this took me a step into the realm of minimalist art.
“When I decided to do these paintings, I realized it had all of these elements.
“It was 1975 and I felt I was really of my time.”
He met St-Cyr at the opening of the original show, and he was so impressed with what Newhouse had done with the maple leaf.
“He was thrilled somebody did something artistic with his design.”
They were part of the same group exhibit in Vancouver.
“He told me he was just a bit player in the flag design. He was so modest and low-key. Meeting him was like a dream.”
But over the years Newhouse forgot his name, and was searching for St-Cyr, ever since.
Newhouse tried to track him down, but found out St-Cyr had passed away in 1997 in a recent magazine article.
So he feels compelled to mount his show and dedicate it to the graphic artist’s memory.
“It’s something I have to do.”
Newhouse has loved the flag since the beginning, and is very patriotic. He’s tends to be a little sentimental about his country.
“Every time they sing O Canada I cry,” he admitted.
He was drawn creating art from a young age, and his work has been shown in galleries and in private homes across Canada. He started studying, experimenting and showing his work in the 1960s, and 1970s. In the decades to follow he continued drawing, crafted twig furniture and later a series of children’s illustrated books with detailed and lovely folk art.
Creating a one day show in the park is akin to some great examples of land art.
“It’s like it’s part of the earth, and of course you can’t get any closer to the earth than our flag and the maple leaf.”
Four Seasons of The Canadian Flag, a one day art show on Cultus Lake beach by Max Newhouse, Feb. 15, at 2 p.m. starts with the singing of O Canada by Hannah Litchfield, 10, accompanied by James Newhouse on piano.