Josep Caixach Gamisans
STRICTLY PERSONAL NOTES, A DUET
No need to ask if I will be waxing eulogistic, there is no other way: the god of friendship and the god of artists both of whom are right now likely to be tucking into one of Xavi Caba’s famed “paellas”, are keeping a threateningly watchful eye on me in their curiosity.
In the dining room at home hang several of Xavi’s paintings: a portrait of my mother of an almost canonic pointillism, another in pencil of a daughter of incredible sharpness and detail, a large Christmas card – long strokes in marker pen that steals my heart. In front of me, some solid ceramics of monastic sobriety. Out in the corridor, a wonderful old painting from Caba’s pre-Paris period, now cleaned up and shipshape.
He turned up with two bottles under his arm (Sauvignon blanc, a paysan sold them to me…) This was towards the end of the sixties, the beginning of the seventies. The oldest among us still remember him arriving from Paris in time for the annal village Festival, the convertible sports car, his love for dancing in the marquee.
Frivolities, I hear you say but you are wrong. Behind this image of Xavi back from Paris lies a Calvinistic work ethic, wisdom and opinions…time proved him right.
Xavi on his return from Paris in ’68-69: having personally experienced that Parisian May of ’68, dazzling the local youth, showing off with details and provocations, annoying us deliberately. Here we were overloaded with abstraction and conceptualism what we considered ”modernity” whilst he kept to figurism and perfection, he who had met Balthus and knew what that meant. Though it would have been well within his power, he never really did bother with what was known as “Spanish realism”.
We used to goad him: “Xavi, you´ll have to change your brushes, thicker strokes you should be using.” And we were both wrong and unfair. Old man time, as usual, has separated the wheat from the chaff, and little is now left of the more controversial stuff. He was right on the mark.
With a distortion I would qualify as typically Castellar, he would consider himself an artisan painter and internally was subject to a tension resulting not just from his own capacity (oft underrated) and a pressure to conform to a marketplace conditioned by a pretentious “false modernity”, but also from adverse opinions (which we can now see in all their emptiness and inconsistency). He carried on painting his way, rigor and skill to the forefront.
He successfully managed to skirt the dilemmas of commissions, the need to be a breadwinner and simply aimed to do everything to the best of his ability. Just take a look at this collection of his work.
He worked ceramics in his disciplined enthusiasm, made eau de cologne at Granera – with the destillers using almost medieval techniques – and demonstrated the art of “paella” making, always with that inspiring eagerness, always ready to organise food, a walkabout…whisking us to Paris with a thousand anecdotes, showing us the world. Avid photographer and cinephile…
Engraved on my mind is that tall, bulky frame, Nikons swinging, shooting away with merry glee, an almost cinematic image close to that of his idol John Wayne.
Above all, interminable chats and discussions and arguments at Granera and the Pi hostel, discourse on God and the devil, cinema, politics, art and travel…and rarely in agreement. As he would say, from the perspective of one delivered from Paris, “The world stops at the Pedrissos (in Castellar)”
Nevertheless, I once witnessed him defend Catalonia against some obnoxious Spanish nationalists and again in 1969 or so standing up to the Civil Guard over a traffic incident, simply in defense of an ordinary citizen’s rights and dignity – occasions when his anger coupled to his size made him look threatening indeed.
Dear to us all, vital, generous…a true friend. Xavi, your memory lives on amongst us.