Esteve Prat i Paz
Regarding the extense, diverse and important work of Xavi Caba the observation would be that he strove to apply practically all aspects of art – illustration, photography, drawing, painting, ceramics – and the evident way he drew upon each to the benefit of the others. He must surely have enjoyed this potpourri, even though at times the result may have left him feeling thwarted, but in a positive sense.
We see him as a great observer of his surroundings, both natural and social, at once reflecting his capturing and captivation, a symbiosis between the hunter and the hunted, which in the end is no more than the blossoming of those who, like him, possess a natural sensitivity, subsequently giving harmonious shape to the whole by means of the most appropriate technique and discipline.
We also see him as tremendously productive, not just in the volume of material he left us, but for the huge amount of experimentation and constant evolution, fruit of his day-to-day efforts and noteworthy self-discipline. Trials and daring departures from the norm, such as painting on gold leaf, acrylics, serigraphy and ceramic colouring having only seen the hue once before firing, all of these speak for his talent.
As far as his actual painting is concerned, one might say that it is essentially figurative and touched on nearly all genres: portraiture, figure, landscape, seascape and still life. What catches the eye is the way he dealt with the neatness of his colours in any range or intonation, and the infinite nuances of colour he was capable of finding. A clean, vibrant palette, clean, luminous colours, carefully worked and adjusted.
He definitely had a predilection for warmer tones, sometimes very warm indeed, going as far as to give a warm base to canvasses before setting out, or deliberately searching for substrates with this inherent quality.
We can also see that in smaller or larger areas of the painting he would allow this underlying warmth to breathe through, but never the whites – that he would never have wanted – hence bestowing them with a very personal ambience and atmosphere.
His compositional sense is closely arranged, his master lines show a well-considered balance – depending on the intention or need to express a facet of the theme being worked upon – and dynamism or movement, or at other times heading into elasticity, giving a sensation of calm, respite or simple tranquility.
He often used diagonal lines in his compositions, though he would also frequently employ a grid pattern without falling into the trap of using any lines to indicate depth, which he attained in this case by means of colour graduation and nuance – in other words by aerial perspective – whilst in other cases he employed a more conventional perspective or combination of the two techniques, thus creating a depth, a fictitious space in which the observer enters virtually, from which the volume of the composition is faithfully reflected.
The horizons – present in the majority of his canvasses, though by no means in all – are usually elevated, allowing for the creation of considerable fictitious spaces within the composition, spaces where the action takes place, whether open landscape in which the space in itself is primordial, or a more confined scene, or containing buildings or figures. However high the horizon may be, he would normally leave a small part of the sky visible to be used by the observer as a reference. Most sections of the heavens depicted in this way were no more than blotches and blurs set in a variety of forms and sizes to accompany the rest of the composition.
His strokes sketch, besides apportioning colour. Again and again we see touches in the shape of points and commas, a punctuation, an indication of rhythm within the composition. Whereas in most of his art detail is important, there is also a part in which he totally dispenses with it so as to simplify form via blurring and thick strokes both vigorous and precise that explain this very simplification and which can only be attained through a total command of the art of drawing.
In both land- and sea-scapes, he often places a figure or animals which if not treated with due care can be a complex action. Proportion plays an important part here in that these figures help to understand or magnify the action under development in the emerging scene.
As for portraiture, generally accepted as one of the most difficult techniques in painting, it must be admitted that he was able to capture the subject – indubitably thanks to his experience as an illustrator which gave him an excellent command of drawing and observation – with a remarkable candor.
Both in quality and quantity, his work is substantial. His is a very personal, home-grown art representing the character and personality of a native of Castellar, one who lived for and by his art, the great Xavi Caba.