Cloud Portraits


This material represents the work in progress for my first non-virtual exhibition to be displayed at Documentation Centre of the City Center Building by the Câmara Municipal de Lisboa [City Council] from March 18th to 31st, 2014. Initially it was a web project, but I wanted to show that the reading also works very well on paper. These twenty-two Portuguese poets’ cloud portraits are a new way of interpretation poetry on paper very similar to the cloud concept on the web. It has affinities with electronic poetry, but it is not interactive, nor has any movement (only rhythm). It is a homage to the visual and concrete Portuguese poetry from the 60’s. Some of the portraits are poetical recreations of the original poems written by the represented authors.

Keywords: cloud portraits; digital poetry; Portuguese poets; typography.

1. Introduction and Motivation

Over our heads and in front of our faces are the clouds. Between us and the poets are the words. The exact same words that (our) poets have used to give us thoughts, emotions or images transmuted into the art of poetry.

Initially sonnets, free verse or calligrams, these same words (and characters) are rearranged to exhibit and represent the face of those who gave them a different meaning, their poetic expression.

Poems, words and characters reorganize themselves into becoming the face of each poet, and it is on that same face that the poems acquire a new dimension, increasing thus its plurality of significances.

2. Technical Approach

Poets work with and reveal themselves through words, so I decided to portray these poets through their own words. Words are a powerful link between us and the world around us. Words are essential for those who engage on this gift called poetry. So, I also rearranged the characters to form a cloud, built from the best known verses and images of each poet, forcing the words to become an actual image – of each poet and their poetry – that can still be doubly read linearly as words, and bi-dimensionally as pictures.

The different symbols were regrouped to give form and shape to each face. Symbols are directly related to the characters and words they built; they are instruments at the service of the poets who communicate through them the musicality of their voices. So, the rhythms of my clouds have to do with the sensations and impressions expressed by their poetry, complementing each poet’s identity given by their faces.

3. Implementation and Future Work

The cloud portraits here presented were made from the poets known famous photographs and images easily found on the web. Not always did I use poems/ words to represent them. For Camões and Fernando Pessoa, two world known poets, I have created calligrams, with a double dimension: the simplicity of basic characters they also used; the iconic dimension they have internationally acquired.

In the end, it’s up to the reader/ viewer/ spectator to disclose, from among the words and symbols, the reading of each face.

After I have finished the present work for this exhibition, I want to develop a similar project with famous poets or writers from different countries and use English to build the cloud portraits. Therefore any person in the world who is familiar with the language could read the words as well.


AGUIAR, FERNANDO & SILVA, GABRIEL RUI, Concreta, experimental, visual: poesia portuguesa, 1959-1989. Lisboa: Instituto de Cultura e Língua Portuguesa, 1989.

HATHERLY, ANA & CASTRO, E. M. de MELO e, Po.Ex: Textos teóricos e documentos da Poesia experimental portuguesa. Lisboa: Moraes, 1981.

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