Irene Wai Lwin Moe

The mythical world of Jeroma Tabell

A gentle monk-like youth, moon-faced – forever young, eternal –sits by a fountain, deep in thoughts, looking at his reflection on the bright waters. The sky burns in warm orange and purple, colors of the  heartbeat. The simplified scenery is reduced to few symbols. It is strangely familiar, somehow. The same way we reqocnize the man. In the sonorous words by eternal Ovid:

        "There stands a fountain in a darksom wood,
        Nor stain'd with falling leaves nor rising mud;

        Pleas'd with the form and coolness of the place,
        And over-heated by the morning chace,
        Narcissus on the grassie verdure lyes:
        But whilst within the chrystal fount he tries
        To quench his heat, he feels new heats arise.
        For as his own bright image he survey'd,
        He fell in love with the fantastick shade;"

The artist Jeroma Tabell from Tampere, Central South Finland, is an amazing man. Tabell has a long artistic career behind him, as well as an active professional career from a totally different field. He masters the painstakingly slow and delicate painting of traditional icons of the Orthodox church but finds his way through modern abstract or exspressionist painting as easily. His sculptures are breath-taking! He challenges the arthistorian with his endlessly intriguing clues! Tabell is an honoured permanent guest to Naivïsts at Iiittala, the most important yearly exhibition of contemporary Naivïst art in Finland, but his paintings pass with light wings all the traditional definitions of the art style.

Jeroma Tabell is a suberb master of rich, warm colors. His brushes glide over the painting, telling his stories with unparallel sophistication. The artist has his roots deep down in the world of the myth. But Tabell’s Narcissos sitting by  the fountain is not Ovid’s young fool falling in love with his own reflection. Jeroma Tabell leads the viewer to parallel reality. Like Orpheus he travels through time and cultures. Tabell’s  blond Aphrodite is plain and commonplace – like the true love of real life!  You might be tempted to think, that the familiar looking hairy athletic guy with tiny horns on his head embracing a white-dressed beauty with wings are the ”good old” Good and Bad wrestling in your concioussness. No, Jeroma Tabell does not give his story up so easily! The image of the miscivious couple lingers in your mind long after you have walked out the gallery. The story does not end in a simple answer. The struggle of the Good and the Bad would be far too easy for Tabell. And finally it pops in - What if the frolicking couple is Eros and Psyche, the lovers from Greek myths, who TOGETHER form the wholeness of love?

The Return of glory of the Greek and Roman mythology is by all means not a novelty in the history of art. In the ancient times the eternal stories of the conquests and adventures of the very human-like Gods were known to all. Everyone who ever climbed the stairs to holy Acropolis or other sacred places, already knew what to look for and how to interprete what he saw. The ill-tempered Pantheon, great love stories, amazing metamorphoses, tragic jealousy and bitter hatered, struggle for power were all stable food for the Greek theatre. Just mention Medeia – and you have an eternally terrifying symbol for revenge! The Christian Middle Ages pushed Zeus, Apollo and Aphrodite down from their high thrones. great minds of Renassaince found them beried under the fallen stucco of the temples – and in the forgotten books saved by the Arab neighbours! Just think about the artists of Baroque and Rococo! What a treasury they found. Look at the great masters, like Pieter Paul Rubens. The high society and royalty of the 17th century eagerly saw their time as a reflection of Ancient Greece. The allegory was total when Louis the XIV, Le Roi Soleil dressed up as Zeus, surrounded by the Nymphs of Arcadia.

The eternal truths buried in the myths  were told long before the Greek and Roman poets wrote them for us to enjoy and learn from. The myths are the common heartbeats of all mankind. The outer appearance of the hero and heroine, even the color of the Gods - will change as the story travels through time and cultures. The innate truth in them lives forever.

Jeroma Tabell brings all those images out from dusty shadows of art history out open into the fresh sunny day of Finnish summer. One recurring image in Jeroma Tabell’s paintings is a flowery tree, spreading it’s roots deep and afar in the fertile soil. The Tree of Life has been known since the birth of Gilgamesh, the epic story of Mesopotamians some 5000 years ago. The Tree of Life is also mentioned in the Old Testament. It was revered by Native Americans in their exciting totems and the Vikings in their World Tree.  The great oak is aone centerpiece of Kalevala, the epic tale of the Finns. The Tree of Life is an universal symbol for reaching for the knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It tells the story of searching for the eternal life, victory over death. The tree in Jeroma Tabell’s paintings is full with scented flowers and many times it bears fruit. An exciting investigation in some of his artworks shows a grave among the roots. It was common in the altarpieces in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to paint the grave of Adam under the cross of suffering Jesus of Nasareth. The mythical connection between the forefather of humankind and the cross of Christ continues the thousand years old dream of conquering the Death. Jeroma Tabell paints the gentle figure of his Aphrodite under the Tree of Life – Love conquers all!

The art of Jeroma Tabell is a refined combination of pure creative professionalism and intelligent sense of humour. He manages to renovate the ancient myths without the alienating white togas, thunderbolts of Zeus or dramatic settings. Tabell’s myths are modern, they are happening as we speak: his Aphrodite in a red dress could be found working at the cash desk of a supermarket. His smooth and juvenile Narcissos is wearing a pair of fashion jeans, but look: in the reflection, the moon-shaped head of the young man has been transferred into a Wolf. Wolf is the sub-consciousness, the instinct, the desire which drives life forward in a passionate force. 2000 years after Ovid, Jeroma Tabell has succeeded in reaching for the reflection of the eternal myth.

Irene Wai Lwin Moe has a Ph.D on South-East Asian Buddhist art tradition from Jyväskylä University, Finland. Her special interest in art is myth in contemporary action movies. She has lived and worked in several countries around Asia and the Middle East, worked in Kuopio, Varkaus and Riihimäki art museums, taught art history and art analysis in universities and professional institutes and published several books. At the moment she works as the Excecutive Director in Naivïsts at Iittala Foundation.


Aamiainen ruohikolla (Manet – Tabell), Akryyli, 50x61, 2016

Jeroma Tabell

-    lives in  Tampere, Finland

  1. -   autodidact free artist

  2. -   studied in Jyväskylä University and Laplands University

-    worked as a special teacher, headmaster and art therapist