A Collaboration of Painting and Poems - Before Oblivion by Jai Tanninen and Ian Canon


Before Oblivion brings together 21 paintings and 21 poems on themes like the inevitability of death, the mundane, addiction, love, sex, and masculinity.

An excerpt from the introduction:

There is, I believe, a companionship that exists between the painter and the poet — an overlapping sensibility towards the world.

The poet Robert Creeley said, speaking of artist Francesco Clemente, with whom he frequently collaborated, “Any person reading what I’ve written and seeing what he’s made is moving back and forth between two emotional fields. It’s not a question of understanding, but of picking up their vibes.”

In Before Oblivion, it was and is our goal to shift our dear viewer through a rhythmic dance of emotional states, discovering for themselves the simultaneously loose and close connections between the two mediums as both a single art piece and as their own individual movements.

But what are these movements and where did they originate? There were, in both our bodies of work, inherent thematic similarities that immediately stood out.

Wallace Stevens said, “The problems of poets are the problems of painters.”

But to press the dialogue further, Jai looked over my entire body of work and picked out the themes that he felt would work best as a collaborative piece. At that point we separated and produced 16 poems and 16 paintings, then a year later, we added another 5 poems and 5 paintings.

Now we have a book with 21 poems and 21 paintings, from varying points in our lives, both made collaboratively and individually, and offering our own unique perspective on love, sex, art, masculinity, addiction, boredom, and the inevitability of death (oblivion).


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3_TheHumanCondition (1).jpg

the human condition is absurd, but charming

as skylarks
fly through life unbent 
and people
feel their lives unspent
the absurdity
starts to boil builds beyond 
the dregs of time 
with a not-so-subtle hint
that this far-fetched cosmic 
tale of mine 
will end.

and yet
in the dust 
and in its wake
there was still 
of a shape
that left behind
a heart so full
of humans
who loved