During the late 1980s and early 90s Martina Kügler discovered (or maybe rediscovered) the work of the Marquis de Sade, and recognised in his willingness to address the shadow aspects of sex, power and freedom something that resonated with her own relationship with social and emotional issues. Sade was willing, indeed eager, to explore every dark corner of human behaviour, especially in relation to conventional sexual norms – and so was Martina.

In 1990 she produced two related portfolios, one of drawings and one of large, bold, colourful images made on brown wrapping paper. Though only loosely related to Sade’s writings, she made it clear that the Marquis and his writings were the primary inspiration behind them.

Here is her champion Hans-Jürgen Döpp’s analysis of Martina Kügler’s Sade-inspired work:

According to Sade, the task of the novelist is to describe behaviour that deviates from the norms of enlightened thinking, and to unearth hidden truths. The subject of his novels is ‘nature’ in the sense of denied nature. Sade and Martina Kügler would have got on well, he with pen and ink, she with pencil and paper, each in their own way using their skills towards an aesthetic appropriation of reality.
     Freedom from order and taboo – this anarchic ferment permeates both Sade’s texts and Martina Kügler’s Sade cycle. The vehemence of her pictures comes from an anarchic rage expressing a vital attitude towards life. As words are to the Marquis, Martina’s drawing is a sensual pleasure, but in no way does language or drawing merely replace enjoyment. ‘The pleasure of the senses,’ notes Sade, ’always depends on the imagination. We can only strive for happiness by using every aspect of our imagination.’
    Martina Kügler’ imaginative medium is drawing. Her characters burst with energy; bodies, longing for pleasure, pulsate. Form and content are determined by an elemental force. The fresh power of her colours, freeing themselves from dependence on the underlying figures, have a libidinal character, and thus libido becomes visible. The orgasms of colour in her pictures burst the confinement of sex.
     Kügler’s imagined figures regularly combine features of both genders. Do the sexual struggles she depicts in her energetically-charged images therefore represent conflicts within each individual? If each sex contains elements of its opposite, then each sex rages against itself in its bipolar disunity. Through struggles for separation and exclusion, the male and female wrestle for dominance in order to emerge from a bisexual potency to a unified gender identity. But in the end, sexual pleasure tends to restore the original unity, to dissolve identity in the merging of the sexes. Mutually conflicting soul forces vibrate in Kügler’s characters.
     In this way, the tremors triggered by Sade’s texts are captured and recorded by Martina Kügler’s pencils. Just as Sade’s texts frighten us because something repressed resonates in them, so Kügler’s drawings also disturb us, reminding us of the deep roots of our subjectivity.