Scenes from the Mediterranean of life between light and shadow
Dario Micacchi

Achille, 2003 In 1914 there came the trip – from shadow to light – of Paul Klee, with Macke and Moilliet, to Tunisia; and, in the Mediterranean sun, that cry of love and liberation for his painting – and it was so for so much of contemporary painting:¬ “This is the happiest moment in life:¬ colour and I are a single thing. I am a painter.” A century before, in 1832, in Morocco Eugène Delacroix was to discover his Greeks and his Romans. Even before Wolfgang Goethe – who made another fundamental journey from shadow to light – had come down to the Mediterranean to seek, in Sicily, the “plant of plants¬ ”, Goethe being precisely the man that, with The theory of colours, had analyzed in parallel with germinal nature the structural formation of colours passing from shadow to light. Goethe wrote: “seeds, bulbs, roots, and in general what is excluded from light, or is immediately surrounded by earth, are mostly white. “Plants that have been grown in obscurity from seeds are white or tend to yellow. “Light, besides, while it is acting on their colours, simultaneously acts on their form. “Plants that grow in darkness certainly lengthen from node to node. Between node and node, however, the stems are longer than they should be. No side branch is produced and the metamorphosis of the plants does not take place. “By contrast, light immediately disposes the plant in an active condition, the plant appears green and the pathway of metamorphosis down to reproduction proceeds without interruptions…”. Goethe was certainly not the first or the last European writer or artist to cover the whole cognitive and imaginative pathway from shadow to light as far as the shores of the Greek and Italian and Arab Mediterranean. But his Theory of colours precedes the great journey from which he was to take back to the north – and it was an earthquake – the classical dream and his beloved Greek sculpture head. For Klee, through the slow accumulation of reflections and lessons at the Bauhaus, Theory of form and figuration was to come a long time after the trip to the Mediterranean South, while for painting the consequences were overwhelming and remarkably similar, in figurative imagination¬, to the imaginative naturalism of Goethe’s theory of colours constructed as an ascent from deep shadow to the dazzling light of the Mediterranean noon. While Paul Klee accumulated, with his typical cataloguing imagination, hundreds and hundreds of small sheets with drawings and watercolours on them, another great man of European imagination, in his journey from Greece to Munich, Florence, Paris and Rome, and with the fundamental sojourn in Ferrara, first felt the shadows lengthening on the piazzas of Italy in an exhausted sunset and then a dark and mysterious evening coming down on the Mediterranean. It is all said in that 1929 magic story, entitled Ebdomeros, in which the protagonist, after assisting at the massacre of the “great old men of stone” by the sculptor “with an anxious way of acting that looked with horribly sinister eyes” thought of and desired the North, while with his friends, to whom he promised that one day there would be a South to stay in forever, he was going to the shore of a mysterious little harbour. “In the meantime – thus Giorgio De Chirico ends the enigmatic story –the night had come, and the scenario changed. As happens at times in dream, the whole enchantment of that sweet panorama faded away little by little to make way for the gruesome outline of inhospitable rocks that rose in the shadow, while during the day they were hidden by fog and the smoke of factories. “The crater of a volcano started to vomit whirlwinds of smoke and short yellow-bluish flames; the luxuriant vegetation vanished in the darkness. “The lake was in a basin flanked by sheer walls; the inhabitants of the village claimed that from the centre of its surface the bottom had been sounded in vain; it probably disappeared into the abysses of the earth; strange rumours circulated; men who were nevertheless serious affirmed they had seen in the depth of night monsters from the tertiary epoch wandering on the lake. The fact is that nobody dared to venture towards the centre of the lake; besides, a line of small buoys painted vermilion red marked the limit beyond which the probe no longer touched the bottom.” Half a century has passed since the frightening prefiguration of the melancholy and metaphysical imagination of Giorgio De Chirico but those small buoys painted vermilion red are still there signalling the limit where the probe no longer touches the bottom; and, while ever new dark and low clouds make the night darker, nobody ventures towards that limit; indeed, everyone remains at a respectful distance, including the frantic travellers and oceanic flyers of the Trans-avant-garde that love “healthy uncertainty” and sponsored wildness. I chose to mention the Europe of Goethe, of Delacroix, of Klee and of De Chirico, in the existential and poetic pathway shadow-light-shadow and the Mediterranean one of myth and reality, in which so many sought and found classicism, light, colours and which today oddly resembles the shore which Ebdomeros had reached after seeing the insane sculptor breaking up the great old men of stone, and to discover “the limit beyond which the probe no longer touched the bottom”; to try to approach the great wealth and depth of the colour of a painter of today, Antonio Santacroce, Syracusan by origin, whose imagination would never be able “to take off” without the environment and the figures of Catania, who has vital experience of the North of Europe and is a European Sicilian that constructs enigmatic images of colour in an ascent, at times painful, from shadow to light in absolute awareness, and I could also say solitary awareness, of the human cost of this ascent that is existential, cultural and lyrical together. I have spent two months with all Santacroce’s painted sheets around me: I could now say that every day has had a colour dominant (as happens with the sheets of Paul Klee). Now all these extraordinary and magic colours are deposited, through the gaze, inside me, each with its radiant shine that comes from the distance of time and space; and I am convinced that on the old and refined papers there has been no spreading from the left to the right or vice versa, but a rising of liquid colour from the depth to the surface piercing and impregnating layers and thickness of life and memory. There, all these layers and thickness are poetically fundamental for a strongly structured image in which life is deposited and goes to make bricks and cement not for imitative fragments but for cuts, selections, seams, assemblages of moments and situations, experienced and imagined, in different times and places even if Catania is always the womb of everything. Antonio Santacroce is aristocratic and popular imagination: he is Greek, he is Sicilian, he is Baroque, he is eighteenth-century, he is Kleeian. His imagination lights up, I believe, as much for a walk in Via dei Crociferi as for an ancient wall in Catania from whose stains he sees Leonardesque ghosts appearing on the surface; as much for a painted Sicilian cart as for an archaic Greek kouros; as much for the coral material of drums of the columns of Sicilian Greek temples as for that deep breath of the senses and the feeling that he sees appearing on the surface with the colour while he is spreading it out on the sheet. This inimitable and personal colour is thought¬, dreamt, imagined: it has a strange interior light that comes from a distance of time and space. In its thickness there are englobed female and male figures that meet, live, speak, are loved¬, are elegant, make gestures: they are inside the thickness of the colour drawn with a bright filament or seem to be done in graffiti on an ancient wall that could be Minoan or Pompeian. The relationship among the sketch with a bright filament and the mass of colour shows rare and pure harmony, a very musical and sensual rhythm, figuration very much fantasised on anatomy and gesture. And here a rather deep analytical question arises: why Antonio Santacroce, who is so sensitive to the stones and worldly figures of Catania, ends up englobing everything in the mass of a colour as if it were almost a geological layer. Have you ever seen an amber piece englobing an insect? Contemporary life seems to be arrested by the imagination as if it were at once consigned to a distant time. Almost all the figures painted by Antonio Santacroce are naked, Greek ones as in the vase painting and at the same time with something eighteenth-century northern about them like that which is scattered around in architectures in Catania; the male figures wear big hats like the ones that Baudelaire liked when he wrote Of the heroism of modern life. Do you remember his cruel words on the modern suit?¬ “…Yet, does it not have a beauty of its own and a native charm of its own, this suit that is so scorned? Is it not the ineluctable dress of our epoch, a suffering epoch that bears on its thin black shoulders the symbol of endless mourning?¬ It is to be clearly noticed that the black suit and the frock coat do not only possess a political beauty of their own, an expression of universal equality, but also a poetic beauty of their own, in which the collective soul is expressed; an immense parade of gravediggers, political gravediggers, gravediggers in love, bourgeois gravediggers. We all celebrate some funeral…”. Well, in Sicily, in the eighteenth century, this worldly sense penetrates and informs religious sculpture. There are many examples, but two of them are stupefying: the stucco statues of Patience and Fortitude, living creatures, not allegories, executed by the delirious imagination of Giacomo Serpotta for the Rosario oratory in San Domenico in Palermo. The soft and supple body, the offering itself to contemplation, so full of erotic grace, the imagination of the hairstyles, the supreme elegance of the attire, the headdresses¬ of the beautiful heads with the volutes of feathers that seem to be crossed by a puff of air, the motion and the expression of the head that is elegant, astute, that of a person that knows well that they are in the world. The worldly whim dresses the ancient Greek form. Serpotta is Palermo, not Catania; yet I believe that Antonio Santacroce also saw these forms in figures of the present¬, and in flesh and bones, along the streets of Catania. Certainly, Antonio Santacroce’s culture is dense in allusions: coins, cameos, Attic and Magna Graecia vase painting, all the flow of history that has marked the stones in Catania, Sphinx and Chimera, Pharaoh and the cat-god Mammon and its dark palazzos. A few rare times the historical places of Catania are recognizable in the images painted by Antonio Santacroce¬; but generally it is the colours of a Catania of memory and imagination, suspended between shadow and light, that Antonio Santacroce loves and varies to the extent of lyric obsession. At some moments, life presents itself to him as on a stage, and then there is a construction of the image reminiscent of the supreme ones of Daumier the painter of the theatre and the Parisian scene. The life that flows is traced by that bright sign of his which now emerges and now sinks in the magma of colour (in giving body and light and abysmal transparency Antonio Santacroce adds something very personal both to the magma of Paul Klee and to that of Mark Rothko); but what holds everything together is the thickness of the mass of colour and this thickness is entirely a creation of the existential imagination of Antonio Santacroce, who for the most ordinary things always creates a metaphysic, a distance and a sinking in time and in space. Catania is no longer a city to recount and to illustrate in its hours and its days; instead it is the place of experience of a modern classicism that ends, unrecognizable, in Kafkaesque pathways. This is the reason why at the beginning I mentioned that the colour comes up from great depths of the self and that it has nothing imitative about it. The vibrations of yellow, green, blue, violet, red, blue are always disquieting and belong to the vision of a cosmos in which the sky of Catania with its tremendous volcano is a fragment, a flake of particular light. Certainly with the same colours a cart can be painted¬, but who said that that colours do not live far beyond the illustration of mythical and popular stories? I mean: who said that the popular is simple? Painted with a sense of long time and to last in long time, these images on paper reveal themselves little by little, they have their own time, only theirs, of “reading”: you have to know how to see them because they propose non-consumer visibility, another quality of the image in comparison to the image of consumption, be it photographic, television or cinema or also painterly-illustrative. The quality of Antonio Santacroce’s colour reminds me of¬ another, different painterly quality – that of another great Sicilian painter who went back to painting in Sicily: Piero Guccione. But while the latter toils to fix an absolute transparency of the world – and at times when so many toil to ¬repeat the opaque world – at a certain time that is meridian or auroral or vespertine that changes from being natural to being mental and built millimetre by millimetre with the slide of cosmic light on the skin of stones and waters and plants in Sicily looking towards Africa, Antonio Santacroce draws out of the deep darkness that man bears inside him an impressive rainbow of colours that are buried but still vital, germinal, radiant, almost a buried primordium that keeps on flowing under petrified magma. It seems to me that it is an extraordinary phenomenon to be registered that there are today in Sicily, on that Mediterranean shore that has so much history, two painters with such a transparent gaze as Piero Guccione and Antonio Santacroce, and they are there, with absolute intolerance of eye and craft, pursuing and fixing the great motion of light: both that of the cosmos and that of the internal world of man. There was such a great moment in European painting that Paul Éluard could say that Max Ernst had made the world less opaque. Today the system of art seems to be coalized not only to bring back the greatest opacity but also to offer this opacity like the black diamond of a tremendous combustion of a world of ashes and negativity. There returns to my mind the annotation that Goethe¬ made, in the Theory of colours, that the beings that most live in light and allow the light to penetrate them,¬ like butterflies, develop the most marvellous colours. This is a way of saying that the desire for a transparent image of colours can be in the energetic painter the metaphor of a desire for life and metamorphosis. Antonio Santacroce loves the small and medium format and the maximum concentration of the image very much structured on the colour. He has a preference for certain old papers on which colour while it is being spread out immediately takes on temporal thickness.¬ He draws fragments of daily stories with very thin points that leave a sign like a dribble of light: the story is revealed little by little, very often with amazement because it is a story or larva or as if it were breath on glass. In some sheets the sketch is a scorching trace of light that digs out the linear pathway of the form as if engraving it with fire; and there are truly sublime relationships of colour as between the yellow-orange trace that engraves a form in lapis lazuli. The sense of leaving, of sinking of the worldly story has mythographic quality and value: Antonio Santacroce is lyrically obsessed by the problem of the reinvention of a modern classicism.¬ But he is not a painter that rummages and digs and steals from the museum as other painters of today possibly do: a Roberto Barni, a Carlo Maria Mariani, a Di Stasio, a Piruca, an Abate. Mention was made of the part that eighteenth-century Catania has in lighting up his imagination: the zones of radiant and bright colour of his images certainly owe something to the colours of time of the old patrician palazzos and those of the poor houses in Catania. But actually Antonio Santacroce arrives with his gaze at the walls because the gaze is driven and led by an energy that has very deep roots in the self: I insist on saying that it is colour that is not imitated but thought, dreamt, imagined; colour of classical memory and classical prefiguration. Some revealing sheets bear the words “inventory of the patrimony of Vico Fabio”: actually the painter always makes inventories with his imagination and thus rediscovers his “Greek” and Mediterranean roots. It is well known to what extent Greece or more exactly the illusion of Greece in the eighteenth century reached the furthest North, even Denmark and Russia and then the United States. Palladio and the Palladians became a forest: the “Greek” style and stylistic features reached chairs, objects of everyday use, clothes, hair styles. And the “Roman” style and stylistic features followed what was felt to be and believed Greek at the height of industrial civilization to the point that a Greek-Roman mask was created for the sweetest transit of an industrial and social revolution. There were, however, artists that went down to the South and experienced this “Greek” recovery with great anxiety and alarm. Let one example suffice: that of the extraordinary “madman” Füssli, with an inflamed imagination, who peopled the “new Greece” with horrid dreams and nightmares, in female hair styles saw something demoniac and drew a shattered painter in tears who had collapsed on the gigantic fragments of the statue of Constantine in the courtyard of the Palace of Conservatories in the Capitol. This is a way to say that the true artists nearest to Greece in the end were those that felt it with great modern melancholy in an almost irremediable distance. In Antonio Santacroce there lives something of the modern tension of a Füssli just as there lives something of the psychic-structural value of the colour of Paul Klee and the partition between light and shadows that stretch out dilating¬ time so typical of the classical but highly enigmatic and disquieting images of Giorgio De Chirico. There are images, engravings in particular, in which Antonio Santacroce reinvents places, walls and statues in Catania – the Porta Ferdinandea gate, the statue of the goddess Pallas and the mythical underground inhabitants of the city that hold the gate up: Enceladus and Steropes.¬ Here too there is not illustration but visionary sounding out of the consistency of a myth, today. More in general it is the whole typology of the human figures, particularly the male ones, that tends to be mythographic. A beautiful figure is taken from the street and mentally, lyrically recomposed between the black or bright figures of a vase painting or done in relief, with rare humour, on a mysterious scene where life is mimed by the figures of the Commedia dell’Arte: it is the magic moment of the double, of the game with the Mask, of an extraordinary Sicilian-Greek theatricality taken back to the depth of time, to the suspension and temporal duration of the Mask and where the self-portrait and the figure from reality are put back, from a behavioural, psychic and gestural point of view, inside a flow that is ancient, classical, Mediterranean and in which the flow is built up with those masses of radiant colour that rise from the depth. Looking carefully at these marvellous painted papers, we see that all the figures, whether from the present or from memory¬, follow a secret pathway that leads from existence to history and returns to existence. It is to existence, instant by instant, that the musicality of the colour raises a stupefying “Gloria”, and here Antonio Santacroce, in full poetic autonomy, renews that “amazement at ordinary things” that Giorgio De Chirico spoke of on the occasion of an exhibition of metaphysical paintings by Giorgio Morandi. And I am convinced of two things: that in great Greek art Antonio Santacroce sees continual mythography of daily life and ordinary things, and that for the present there can be no other visionariness than that which is born of daily life and of amazement at ordinary things. It is on this thin but very tenacious thread that our enigmatic painter plays out his splendid metamorphoses, at least since he discovered that in the layers of the deep self there are buried, to be freed, the most beautiful colours of the world and the imagination. One should look for a long time at these painted sheets: it will be seen that the human figures live, meet, are loved, play, separate always against the dazzlement of this colour that comes from the depth of the self and that makes the scene of the world. But under this bright colour that renders the space of life and eros bright there is always the dark thickness of the shadow. Not all painters know the secret of light entering the metamorphoses of the Baroque and the metamorphoses of Paul Klee: you need to know how to be a trunk and to let yourself be run through by the vital flow. Klee said, in the Jena lecture, that the true painter is like a tree that lets itself be run through, from the roots to the leaves, by the flow of the history of existence, but that the leaves, though made of the same organic matter, are very different from the roots. Antonio Santacroce knows how to be a trunk. There are no two equal leaves because each one seeks for itself the space for expansion and the light for its metamorphosis. There are no two equal images in Antonio Santacroce. There is no monotony of colour or story. The colour is spread out in such a way, in zones, that the surface can seem a glass door that is illuminated by a distant sun and that, because of different transparencies of tones and timbres of colour, allows the light to pass. In each zone of colour there is a figure or an event. Musician, man with mask, man riding a goat, man skipping with a rope, woman lifting her dress and showing her sex, man leading a Sicilian cart, man making lime, man on a bench, man on horseback, man in a boat, man telling a story, man listening, man or child playing with a cat, man on a bicycle, man making love, man walking, man at table, man in a car, disguised man that would like to be a Greek Ephebe. Every sheet is constituted like a structure of image with several zones: the human types and the daily and behavioural situations always vary. But what is amazing is the ever-different incandescence of the colour, which leads to an endless variety of tones and timbres. Take any colour, at random: yellow, for instance, or orange red or also violet blue. Let one also think about nature: the flowers, the insects, the fishes Goethe wrote about in The theory of colours. The painterly imagination goes beyond nature of the invention of colours. Many times, in these weeks of work for this critical text, I have arranged and varied around me the images painted by Antonio Santacroce. At a certain distance the stories elegantly drawn/done in graffiti inside the colour zone are not seen any more: I have thought about the walls of the temple of Knossos, the walls of the Villa of Mysteries, other walls at Pompeii or Herculaneum preserved at the Archaeological Museum in Naples, also certain walls of Etruscan graves; and all this to explain to myself culturally the thickness and depth of the colours and that enigmatic quality of light that burns inside. I have only realised that this colour is the colour of duration in long time. I have felt closer to the truth when I have interpreted the colour and its inside light as a continuous metamorphosis of an erotic state of mind, very sweet, alarmed, that dreams and prefigures, tries to build up on the experience of daily life a man-sized painterly space, well illuminated, in which the enigma of life remains but is not inhuman: also putting the daily time into cosmic time has no terribleness but a human sense of boundless flow that englobes existence and history. Antonio Santacroce – and it is a beautiful poetic achievement – has succeeded in constructing and imposing on those who look a time of vision of radical contrast with the time of vision of technological and consumption images. In short, he has restored to painting some of its ancient power, its spiritual and moral concentration, its enigmatic message that is a multiple meaning that is never disclosed the first time you look. He has challenged a certain widespread way of doing painting and enjoying-consuming painting in a delirious substitution of manners, tastes, lootings of the history of art. He is not post-modern but modern; he is not a wild magic chief physician but a Greek eighteenth-century visionary; he is not a neo-expressionist but a Mediterranean man rationalizing the most secret and unconscious motions of the self; he is not a painter in trans-avant-garde and looting transit, but a painter of daily life remembering an enormous fragrance and never tiring of prefiguring another world, clean and well illuminated. And he is clearly a painter that derives joy from work and painting, and is the first to be amazed at the ghostly apparitions that his hand succeeds in causing to appear on the sheet. He chooses the sheets of paper one by one, preparing a different support for each adventure of the imagination.¬ There is analytical patience, an exactness from which the vision can take off. The painting done, after the clan and consumption degenerations of the experimentalism of the neo-avant-gardes that killed itself off in the social and lyrical uselessness of gestures, actions, materials used, the human and social waste of political ideas, has again become alluvial all over the world. But the “American” taste for the painting-object and rapid consumption is not over – rapid, very rapid, so that today with so much painting that has the strong support of the market and sponsors, it is even more difficult to find and recognise a true painter of reality or vision that has painterly imagination and technical means to make it “tactile.” The quality of the gaze and the quality of the painterly rendering make Antonio Santacroce a painter going against the tide who thinks and works according to a human sense of long time that is not for an immediate market and consumption but aims, after so many nihilisms and so many useless destructions – and while so many rush frightened to ransack the museums, thus trying to fill the void of the present – at the reconstruction of an absolute and modern quality of painting starting precisely from a mythographic present able to activate historical-existential memory and to risk the most amazing prefigurations. Giorgio De Chirico said, to explain metaphysical painting, that what was important was not the known signs but the new ones that could enter the space of the picture and fertilize. I serenely believe that we are still living in this historical period of the wait for new signs. The charm, the beauty, the future of the painted images of Antonio Santacroce lies in the fact that he has awareness of this time of waiting that from our boundless, shattered and tremendous world succeeds in filtering some new signs. It has been said that he is a Mediterranean man, and it is true; but careful! He is not a naïf Mediterranean man; he has experience of the North and an exact and modern awareness of the many shadows, dark and low, that weigh on the world and on painting. He does not have – as Picasso said of Henri Matisse – a sun in his belly! He is, on the contrary, a man that has to look for light, the sun, and reach them in a continual ascent that starts precisely from the existential and historical zones in which the shadows are densest. He is not, in short, a painter that possibly makes a crafty use of Mediterranean commonplaces. He is an authentic lyricist with hallucinated tension of the gaze, but a person that knows what his Sicily is today and how tragic and horrid the Mediterranean is today. In a studio in Catania, a painter distils light and gives back colours to the world and drives away the shadows. Not far off, from some bombed oil well, in the war among Iranians and Iraqis, oil magma escapes that nobody stops and that three months ago had already reached the thickness of a metre and the area of a land as big as Sicily afloat in the Persian Gulf. Today, true painters have not stopped putting up their own resistance, imagining and prefiguring a painted world so different from the world as it goes. And this is another point in favour of Antonio Santacroce, who paints sheets with marvellous colours like and more than those of the butterflies which Goethe spoke about in The theory of colours and that has its light a little like that of the fireflies whose disappearance Pier Paul Pasolini lamented. The way from Syracuse to Catania is short, but a certain colour that has a certain light can change into legend: I believe that not Catania, though so fundamental to his imagination, not only Sicily but Italy can greet a very new, very modern painter, with an incandescent and inexhaustible imagination. This may also not be surprising because much of the fire that he has made and modern art causes to burn in Italy has come from Sicily. What is amazing, at least for me, is that Antonio Santacroce gathers in himself the fire of a Greek-Sicilian and Mediterranean imagination and the awareness that the North of Europe historically and culturally has had of the South and of the Mediterranean to the point of making its petrified inhabitants, who had lost the memory, meaning and pride of it, rediscover it. This cycle of paintings on paper, in which the lyrical tension peaks in 1981 and 1982, can all be seen together and thus take on the character of a sequence and visionary history of Catania and modern life. But every sheet can also be seen on its own without losing anything in terms of quality and lyrical and visionary tension. This is due to the spiritual and vital concentration that is present in every sheet and to the richness and variety of images on which the cycle is constructed. A very subtle painterly game runs through all the images continually exchanging life and theatrical stage. This has also been done by other great painters from Daumier to the Picasso of the “pink” acrobats and of the women carrying bread and it was also the years with loving and tender colours somewhere between clay and baked bread (not pink). But both the life and the theatre of Antonio Santacroce are “tactile” evidence and psychic allusion to something so deep as to prove enigmatic. I do not want to bring out the theatre and the love for the stage of a Pirandello. It is certain that, with this painter that climbs from shadow to light, there is once again revealed a Sicilian and Mediterranean character that is a form of the character that gave rise to the spirit of Greek tragedy. And it is not by chance that Wolfgang Goethe on his return from his journey in Italy and Sicily put in verses Iphigenia in Tauris (1787) in which the overcoming of the horrid moment of violence and astuteness is accomplished with the (poetic) mission of harmony and trust and purity carried ahead by the woman as a civilising force. And a trauma for the German conscience and for Goethe was a certain isolation accompanied by the scandal over his love for the little florist Christiane Vulpius. I mean that Sicily has great tragicalness and that the sunniness that nature chose to grant her is very often darkened by the actions of men. It is not an easy place where a painter can pluck off spontaneously ripened fruits: it never has been so; it is not so today. For painterly light to be made, for the colours of the world and the soul to shine like a stained glass window, a painter has to labour, fight, hold out, cause the light that he bears in himself not to be weaker than the meridian light. It has been so since the times of the long gaze of Antonello and the passage, so fraught with ideas of death as to make one stop up one’s nose, of Caravaggio: all in light the former, all in shadow the latter (but not because he did not see the great Sicilian light between earth, sea and sky). It may be a curious cultural phenomenon, but a painting of views and sunny landscapes has never taken on in Sicily. This means making transparency, reaching the light, giving back incandescence to the colours of life and the world, repeating the inverse walk that from the Sicilian shadow of Caravaggio leads to the Sicilian light of Antonello. If one goes to see the pathway of the great Sicilians and Mediterranean that count, it emerges that there are no half measures and compromises in art. Often the great Sicilians are great solitaries, and if for very worldly reasons of life, also very melancholy people. A great lesson comes out of the painting of Antonio Santacroce: there is no painting of Mediterranean light that is also not painting of moral light: construction, that is obtained with the light that one bears inside oneself harmonized with the meridian light. Only on this condition can one attempt a modern lay mythography of a new classicism.

(Traduzione di Denis Gailor)