“Calligraphie auprès de laquelle, plus simplement, on se tient comme auprès d’un arbre, d’une roche, d’une source.”
Henri Michaux – Idéogrammes en Chine.

“They sparkle in the night of existence, through the clarity of consciousness that does not dissipate it… ”
María Zambrano – “Signos, Sementes” – Clareiras do Bosque.

Since the 1940s, with the impulse of the lyrical, semiotic and gestural abstraction of Degottex, Hartung, Mathieu, Michaux, Schneider, Soulages, Tàpies, Wols and Dotremont (one of the founders of the COBRA group in 1948) and the great temptation that led the West to follow the rhythms and writing traditions of oriental art, contemporary Art has found a form – that has continued to our times – of celebrating the marriage between poetry and painting, in a constant scintillation of wonders, of which the French artist Henri Michaux remains a fundamental proponent.

The visual poetry that appeared as a movement in Portugal in the 1960s bore splendid fruit in the work of the painter-poetess and essayist Ana Hatherly, a figure of European importance, who, in the Baroque, in which she specialised, discovered the same élan in combining writing and image. Moreover, in “The Reinvention of Reading”, a pioneering essay among us, Ana Hatherly emphasised “the mystical character of writing – for Plato it was the geometry of the spirit”, “treated most seriously in the East, particularly in China and Japan, where the poet-painter- calligrapher is a paradigmatic cultural unit.” (1)

In his turn, in his poetry and the book “Idéogrammes en Chine” (2) Michaux paid homage precisely to the figure of the artist-calligrapher, who is capable of reviving this first vocation of writing for the miracle and the apparition. A writing that is hallucinatory and represents a turning point, transgression, marvellous explosions and vibrant births, which was also his own and which he defines in this text in keeping with the signs of where it seems to have been born.

“Strokes in all directions. In all the directions, of commas, circles, parentheses and accents, we would say, at any height, at any level; disconcerting bushes of accents. Strokes, breaks, beginnings, suddenly seeming interrupted. With no body, no forms, no figures, no outlines, no symmetry, no centre, no conjuring up of anything known. With no apparent rule of simplification, unification or generalisation. Neither sober, nor purified nor stripped down. Each one as if fragmented…” Ancient characters of Chinese writing, apparently absurd, reinterpreted by the learned, have risen again in their first intention, living again, as Michaux describes, he too a lover of Chinese script. A whole world then emerges: moons, hearts, gates, human gestures, mornings, rainwater, threats and seduction, a world “full of everything that exists in the universe”. A new writing that possesses a power, by visiting its origins, to renew objects and charm the world afresh.

There is, then, again according to Michaux, an opportunity for this writing to get close to things. These gently slide within the signs; it is no longer the writing that imitates life but the opposite.

The transfigurative power of calligraphy, capable of “provoking the inspired stroke”. The new forms of calligraphy, “the art of time”, are light and speedy, flowing like water, and capture the intimate movements of nature and beings. They transport the hidden meaning in their strokes, in their impulses, and give rise to poetry in their spaces, in their invitation to the sense of sight and to multiplicity, communion and surprise.

The process that Henri Michaux describes could accompany Teresa Lobo’s sensitive, radiant and obscure writings that, today, we have the pleasure and honour of presenting. An author’s arrival at the written word is always a celebration of joy and, as a woman is involved, it is more than a celebration, the act of a perfect birth with the sense of creation reflected in the Book of Genesis. Written painting arising from the burst of informalism of Eastern origin, as we mentioned, and from the avant-garde movements such as COBRA or, in Portugal, the KWY (1958 to 1968) flourished in such different careers as those of Escada, Eurico Gonçalves, Manuel Baptista, João Vieira, Emerenciano or António Sena and in the unique trail blazed by Ana Hatherly in her Mapas da Imaginação e da Memória, her creation of purely visual alphabets. What cannot be said.

“I write to say what cannot be said.”
Ana Hatherly – A Idade da Escrita

“Je n’écris pas. La vie fait texte à partir de mon corps. Je suis déjà du texte.”
Helene Cixous – La Venue à l’écriture.

Teresa Lobo continues this line of 20th-century art and the noble tradition of Portuguese culture that since the Baroque – which was studied, precisely, by Ana Hatherley – has united thought and plastic expression. Against the enigmas that shine out in the conceptual and visual games of the Baroque she sets modernity and the brilliance of the essential gestural mode, a new form of relating to the real, in the manner of the “calligrapher” that Michaux poetically describes, whose art she unconsciously draws closer to than any other known or recognised trend.

When visiting her earlier exhibition, we felt she was rehearsing the steps of an alphabet with protean signs, diluted letters, and signals seduced not only by the invisible but also by the beauty and mystery of the visible: she was trying to reach and sometimes indeed reached that subtle point where the visible and invisible are no longer distinguished, the inconclusive reality of a majestic and sensory visuality, vulnerability, which does not content itself with itself but seems to vibrate in the splendour of miracles and awe.

Ink possessed of a soul, the explosion of gestures in the comets of the night that is the pure breath of silence. Bridges, skies, oceans, rivers, the remains of an emotion that wishes to inhabit and be inhabited. Gashes, wounds and furrows in the tissue of the forms appearing, scenery with a sweetness to be discovered, charts of an evasion that represents restrained flight and a pre- announced explosion. Written scenery of a soul that invents with its language, the language of the world. Concentration and expansion, simplicity and chaos, vertical and horizontal, rotation and fall, large movements and rhythms, but also the hesitant faltering of unconstrained delights, minor fears, and shaking, everything that finds no expression in written, approved, language.

Another form of writing that Hélène Cixous, too, invents: ” … I don’t write. Life produces text from the starting point of my body. I am already text. History, love, violence, time, work and desire inscribe it on my body, I go where it is possible to listen to the “fundamental writing”, the language ‘body’ with its translation of all the languages of things, its translation of acts and beings, in my own bosom – the whole of the real worked in my flesh, captured by my nerves, by my senses and by the labour of all my cells, projected, analysed, and recomposed in a book.” (3) Or in this set of mutating signs. The Spanish philosopher-poetess María Zambrano cites these “words” of a different kind, these signs, these seeds: “They leap in a diaphanous manner, the promise of an order without syntax, of a unity without coalescence, doing away with all interrelation, sometimes breaking the concatenation. Hanging, builders of plenitude, though it is in a sigh.” (4)

“Vogais ao sol” where the cry of António Ramos Rosa, the poet of Estou Vivo e Escrevo Sol, seems to echo. A writing that reflects its essence, is transfigured and is transmuted in this exhibition, truly asserting the talent and dedication of a young and intense calligraphy whose appearance Michaux would have welcomed. Fragile lines in a particular and mysterious progression, emerging from the night of the unconscious, without dissipating it, as María Zambrano wrote in the sublime text that we quoted at the beginning, lines close to light and contemplation. Strokes of an absence contaminated with the tumultuous impetus of life, frontiers between silence and the spoken, the unconscious and consciousness, borders, fringes of the visible, of unsubstantial and voluptuous nakedness, their murmurs, edges of a forest of shadows and dreams. Shadows of roads travelled, the shining absence of a Life that is announced and is eager to inhabit the writing. The writing is questioned by a nascent reality and gathers the strokes of this visitation, vibration. Airy, dark, threads of water, of ink and of silence, swaying and tactile in their nakedness.

O Jardim Exaltado

“Beauté des palpitations au jardin des transformations … le désir infini, pulsation qui ne faiblissait pas.”
Henri Michaux : Le Jardin Exalté.

“The body is perhaps a liberated tree”
“And if syllables are changeable it is their thirst that shines” António Ramos Rosa : As Palavras.

Invading and timid signals, hanging gardens of exaltation and bold and tender melancholy. Strokes in the silence, irruptive and gentle invitations to the whiteness, in their interplay of fine shadows. Bushes of dreams, nests, a centre of dispersed emotions, faces of a depth that encloses the gentleness and returns the light to whoever loves it.

Virgin lines of a forest of imperceptible sounds. The word coming, nocturnal, crackling in its flames, erect syllables petrified by terror and passion. Burning, inaugurating its thousand arms, suns, its musical score of the gloom, its webs of miracles enclosed and thus counted. A liberated tree. Union and dispersion. Cosmos and Chaos. Red and black, the slender and secret assumptions of a faceless beauty, the seat of clarity, the eve of an existence that emerges with the fluidity of spring water, the impetus of roots and the terrific heat of the centre of the Earth. The mastery of a writing that shows us emptiness and extracts from it the raw material of an alphabet of living signals that Life desires to inaugurate.


1. Hatherly, Ana – A reinvenção da leitura, Editorial Futura, Lisbon, 1975, p.
2. Michaux, Henri – Idéogrammes en Chine – Editions Fata Morgana, Paris, 1975. Translated by Maria João Fernandes.
3. Cixoux, Hélène – “La venue à l’écriture”, La venue à l’écriture by various authors: Cixous, Hélène; Gagnon, Madeleine, and Leclerc, Annie. 10/18, Union Générale d’Éditions, Paris, 1977, p. 57. Translated by Maria João Fernandes.
4. Zambrano, María. Translation and presentation by José Bento. “Antes de se proferirem as palavras”, Clareiras do Bosque, Relógio d’Água, Editores, Lisbon, 1995, p.87


Lisbon, January 2008
in Percursos exhibition catalogue,  Centro das Artes Casa das Mudas, Calheta, Madeira, Portugal, 2008