Joan Sellent i Arús
IMAGES FROM THE ARCHIVE
A winter’s morning in 1970. Xavier Caba strides down the village High Street, newspaper underarm newly-purchased from Creus’ newsagent’s, an unhurried but naturally long-legged lope.
Caba about Castellar – tall, good-looking, that bohemian, lightly aristocratic tilt to the left shoulder – a snapshot remembered by many from a repertoire of sequences nostalgically veiled and ill-defined. The High Street shot actually exists, footage caught on Super-8 by Josep Vidal, the others, however are rather elusive and definitely not of public domain, personal memories stored away, to be projected at will, always with varying nuances but always displaying a similar rhythm and tone, a jazz jam session.
Images sometimes mute, sometimes enriched by that slow, deep voice freely donating untransferable expressions and cant: «Wonderful, divine!” you can hear him utter, as a voice offstage asks after his general well-being, or how he had felt watching a certain film, at a concert, tasting cheeses, or just cooking a “paella”…images slowly fading away to the soundtrack of a frank and mighty chuckle.
Each and every one has his own private Xavi Caba film library section. Mine starts in black and white with a mythical, distant Caba; Caba already doing military service at the time of my birth. In the most blurry sequences he is my father’s friend and friend of my friends’ fathers, having adult conversations; a man born and raised in Castellar, right next door, oozing a cosmopolitan air of unknown origin, until one day you hear he’s been to Paris (soundtrack: accordeon, Edith Piaf, Sydney Bechet: Caba’s gone to Paris! …you could see that coming!) the frenchified return to Castellar in summertime dancing rock’n’roll and the foxtrot at the marquee (soundtrack credits to Orquestra Maravella, Pensylvania Six….)
But the clearest images date from 10 or 12 years later, Caba has left the Montparnasse and is back on the Sentmenat Road. These are most definitely in colour. From here on then, the man becomes less mythical, less distant, as unbohemian as unaristocratic (except for his looks): the real, definitive Caba. Middle age catching up: the sober, disciplined, methodical professional, but ready to get an adolescent kick out of his personal pursuits and any other that might prove entertaining, with all his wits about him: the man to participate enthusiastically in a documentary about his village, scriptwriter and part-time actor (that winter morning returning from Creus’) From then on, since the shared experience of taking part in Vidal’s film, the artist neighbour becomes easily approachable, a new friend, our twenty year age difference slipping away as if by magic.
The years to follow I was fortunate enough to spend time with Xavi Caba and share his interests, friends and time, leaving a mixed memory of sequences, stages, soundtracks and diverse landscapes: jazz evenings and nights in Terrassa, Sunday mornings at the Palau de la Música, extended lunches at the Pi hostel, unforgettable “paellas”, Granera, Sant Miquel de Cuixà…and Caba loping about Castellar, from Girbau’s ceramics workshop to his own basement where awaited a half-finished canvas, an illustration hardly worked yet beyond a sketch or prints drying off in the darkroom.
Seven years have passed since Xavi Caba left us again – this time for good – leaving in our hands a tangible legacy now reunited in this anthological exhibition. To be able to see for just a few short weeks the product of a life marked by a concept of art as honest as the way it clashes with deceipt, an enviable skill, crossbar never lowered, can hardly be called an everyday occurence. The memory of his affable and vital humanity, the chance to project our own intimate images of the moments we shared with the good man that Xavi Caba was is a delicate, exquisite inheritance without calender or sell-by date, a legacy that while we live and until our memories finally fail, will comfort all those of us privileged enough to have counted on him as a friend.