1973-1981 · Artisan manufacturer

He started to take an interest in engraving techniques. He engraved and printed with a rudimentary press the plate prepared in Rome by Gachnang; he engraved other plates including “Harangue for the intellectual” and “The charm of the snail”, his first aquatint. In autumn at the young “La Vite “ gallery he met Mauro Lombardo, who took great interest in those two incisions and organized the first personal exhibition after his return to Sicily. The great success of the exhibition consolidated the association between the painter and the gallery manager. At this moment Santacroce felt very much he was an ‘artisan manufacturer’ and produced hundreds of minuscule drawings. Intense activity now began (lasting many years) that was to lead him to exhibit in a lot of cities including Milan, Rome, Cagliari, Sassari and Berne; in the latter, in 1974, he was to meet Arthur Loosli, who saw his drawings for the first time and in front of the enormousness of the flesh represented in the work Possible white man expressed in Swiss dialect a sonorous schampar schoen! (shamefully beautiful). In 1980 he fell in love with lithography on stone. He purchased the only old Brisse lithographic press existing in Catania and began an obsessive search for lithographic stones. He was to find no fewer than nineteen of them. In order to learn to use his beloved press he was to become a student of an old press operator in Rome. In 1981, he sojourned in Hamburg where he was impressed by the etchings of a good female artist: Käthe Kollwitz. In Kiel he participated in the Kielerwoche, the big folk sea feast. For the first time he went to London and in August to New York, where he was at last able to visit the much yearned for Frick Collection. He found his beloved Klee and the even more beloved Kandinsky at the Guggenheim Museum. But the height of his happiness came when in a Manhattan street he found a big album of old paper, on which he did various pencil drawings. He visited the big studio of Krishna Reddy, where he got to know chalcographic printing with several colours with a single plate, but was much more interested in the collection of cutters and engraving tips (which the Indian teacher proudly displayed) than in that printing method. At the Metropolitan Museum he found it was beautiful and touching to be a Sicilian in New York, above all on seeing Ecce Homo by Antonello da Messina. 1982-1985 From this moment on he began imposing engraving activity that was to lead him to sign a full seven thousand sheets of graphics. He was helped in this frantic work by a team of young artists who gave life, under his direction, to a real “art workshop”! The recurrent theme of these works is that of “puppets and puppeteers” but his imagination led him to roam freely in many fields; the titles of some of his graphics folders give an idea of it: The four seasons, Lunch is ready, Caltageron de arte sua et mea, Theatre boards, The great triptych of painting, Trying to capture the wind, Spectacle at the Porta Ferdinandea gate. This enormous work made him very popular. From this period there is also a series of ironic drawings on eros on which, in 1987, Vincenzo Di Maria was to write a savoury text entitled Erotic chimeras.