Miguel Angel May, known as Golucho, is a Spanish realist artist born in Madrid in 1949. The exhibition currently on show at MEAM consists of a large selection of oil paintings and pencil drawings, most of which represent the human figure, and demonstrate his impressive technical skill. Golucho paints with startling honesty, showing the “beautiful” alongside the “ugly.”

Golucho’s paintings fall into two main categories: human figures, and still lives. His representations of people, mostly women, are mysterious and often disturbing. They capture private scenes from their domestic life, fleeting moments which we do not usually witness, giving the paintings a somewhwat sinister effect. In El Mundo y Alicia (2004), for example, we see a woman with her hands on her face, frozen in an expression of shock or horror as she stands in a dirty room with a broom and plastic bag in the background. Her expression is frightening yet subtle, and we are not given the slightest clue to the cause of her disturbance. The effect, as with many of his paintings, is highly unsettling.

Also notable are a series of paintings of nude women over a red background, textured with strong brushstrokes, whose bodies are also covered in red, streaking down from head to toe. It is up to the viewer to decide whether they are covered in blood, paint, or just a symbolic red aura. The still lives, also, are interesting in their ugliness: they depict scenes from our everyday life which we would rather avoid. A table crammed with dishes, pots, plastic bags, and the odd teddy bear, for example.

My personal favourites, however, were the large pencil drawings which depict the human body with remarkable realism, capturing hair, wrinkles, and the texture of the skin. The artist demonstrates impressive skill, but what is most striking is his use of the paper itself as a tool. In many of the drawings he intervenes with the paper by tearing and scratching away layers to create texture and expose the bright white underneath, giving highlights to the picture. In some pieces, such as El Cabrero Jesulin (1999) he uses two large sheets of paper, joined strategically to reinforce and support the image.

The setting of the exhibition is a huge bonus, The European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM) occupies the Palau Gomis in the heart of the Born district in Barcelona, a beautiful 18th century palace with a large courtyard and stone stairway. The museum galleries have a strong rustic feel, the walls are painted roughly and unevenly in earth tones and the floor is a deep orange. However I felt that at €9 the exhibition was overpriced considering the relatively small size and the lack of information.

Whether he is painting figures or objects, Golucho’s work is honest and uninhibited. He shows life as it is, without fantasies or delusions, and the result is a very expressive body of work. If you are interested in figurative art it is certainly worth a visit, but if not you might be wishing you could get your €9 back.

Golucho can be seen at MEAM until the 12th of April 2015

Golucho MEAM22