Medea: femme fatale and uber-frau from the East. An escape into mythology? Not with her! It is true that, prior to 1989, East German literary figures and painters frequently fell back on scenes from the ancient world when depicting their discontent with the regime.

However, for the artists presented here, all of whom rose to maturity behind the Iron Curtain, mythology was not so much self-denial as a no-nonsense amplifier of their desires and feelings of resentment. Their interpretations of Medea, Cassandra or Penthesilea were pure punk. Women artists from East Germany, flanked by others from Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania, played with fire, committed provocative acts, protested and experimented beneath the radar of the accepted media.

They bared themselves and their rage, rejecting both Socialist and bourgeois role models. This double refusal meant that they were generally running greater risks than their male counterparts. This combination of defiance and energy still leaves its mark in their imagery today.