Femke Ligthart

Femke's passion for art has been an eternal flame. However, she only first ventured down the path after her first two kids were born.

by / Published: 9 Nov 2011

Femke Ligthart

Who Are You?

Name: Femke Ligthart
Age: 42
Job: Sculptor
Time in Malaysia: 10+ years in Penang

Becoming a sculptor

At an early age I was already very interested in art but lost interest a bit in secondary school, and that’s probably why I didn't go to an Art academy. Then later in life after having my first two kids I remembered how much I liked art and decided it was time again to develop that further.

So I went to many different courses and workshops; from life drawing, oil painting, water-colour painting, acrylic painting and pottery to wood carving, stone carving and then finally sculpting in wax or clay. I was privately taught for many years and learned everything about sculpting from scratch.

Her first creation

I can still remember the first real sculpture that I made. It was a pregnant woman, like I was at that time. Interesting, how you can reflect yourself in your sculptures or any piece of art, subconsciously. The first piece in bronze was another great moment. Each time one of my original clay or wax pieces is cast in bronze, I continue to be amazed by the final outcome.

On her inspirations

Most of my sculptures are inspired by women. What we do in our daily lives, how we interact with each other and the body language we use affect my work. I love fuller body shapes, where you can see the round curves and their flow. My previous work featured slimmer forms and from there I progressed to more voluptuous forms.

First, build exactly what you see, I think everybody can do that if they try hard enough, later try to make it your own. For me, this meant my women became rounder, very feminine and slightly abstract.
My series 'Les Femmes de Fem', meaning 'the women of Fem', is a beautiful series of curvy women in a variety of positions. They have French titles 'La Solitude'; 'La Sauvage'; 'La Superbe'; 'La Sensuelle'; 'La Seductrice'; 'La Soumise I'; La Soumise II'; 'La Sereine' and 'La Sanguine'. A total of 9 sculptures (

Another solo exhibition I did was called 'Melange'. In this series I mainly did torsos and some I dressed with lingerie or bikinis. My latest solo exhibition was called 'Faces', I thought for me, as an artist, it would be interesting to focus on something entirely new. It was difficult but I succeeded and made five very different faces; an African woman, from Sudan, with traditional face scarring resulting in circles of little dots around her eyes, an African man from Burka Faso with tribal facial scarring, three long carvings on the sides of their faces. All these scarring are done mostly when they are still young.

As a symbol of progressing into adulthood and also showing which tribe or clan they belong to. Other times scarring is done to decorate the body; what some tribes would describe as beauty to them.
I also made an Indian girl with gorgeous jewellery; an old man with a turban and finally a Maori man with the traditional Ta Moko on his face which is a permanent tattoo chiselled into his skin with.

Developing her talent

Once when I was in an aquarium shop downtown, I saw these beautiful pieces of driftwood and petrified wood. On the spot I decided I was going to do a series with the pieces of wood as well as small figurines. I made small female figures embracing, dangling or lazing on top of the pieces of wood, approaching the female figure in a whole different way.

I also went on an art trip to Jin De Zheng with a few Chinese friends and my teacher from the Conservatory of Fine Arts in Penang, to learn the art of pottery painting. That was an amazing experience. With Mandarin all around me I still managed to communicate with the 'Lao Shi' (teacher in Chinese) and did an exquisite series of female forms painted onto pottery pieces. What a great trip!

Last year I went with some of the same ladies to the International Women Exhibition in Shanghai.
Next year we are invited to participate in the International Woman's Exhibition in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The women come from all over the world and show their personal art piece on a common subject. It's fantastic how so many opportunities present themselves even for an expat in Malaysia!

Life in Malaysia

It has been over 10 years since we came to Malaysia. My husband had an opportunity to start a company here and we decided to take our four kids and start a new chapter in our lives. It was the best decision ever. Our kids adapted so well into their new schools and learned to speak English within a few months. Ten years later their first language is English but they can still speak and read Dutch. Writing however is tougher.

For me, moving to Malaysia has been fantastic as well. All the friends that we have made, local and foreign; all the cultures; the festivals and food; all the trips we are doing in and around Malaysia and of course the beautiful weather. It has all just been super and luckily we are not going anywhere soon.

Malaysia for her art

In the beginning I used to work at my friends studio which was called 'Claycraft' on Moulmein road, but since 2009 I was able to rent my own Art studio/Gallery here in Penang. I found a very professional foundry in Ayutthaya, Thailand, where I do all my castings. So now, mostly once but sometimes twice a year, I hold an exhibition. Either at my own studio in Tanjung Bunga or as my last one was, at the 'WAF gallery' at Straits Quay.

Family time

When I am in between exhibitions, we as a family like to travel around Southeast Asia and beyond. A bonus of living in Penang so long is that we have met many families from all over the world. They mostly move on after two or three years in Penang, back to their home counties or to different postings.

In this way we do a lot of our travelling visiting friends all over the place. In Malaysia we love to drive to the East coast, where we will stay at Pulau Perhentian. It is really beautiful over there and the roads are easy to drive. We snorkel and always enjoy the Malaysian beaches.

All our kids went to the Cameron Highlands and loved it. Recently we went to Gopeng, off of Ipoh, to do some white water rafting and quad bike riding. What a great trip. Thailand is a common destination for us. We have Australian friends posted there now and it is also where I do my castings.

Ayutthaya is a lovely place so sometimes I take my girls along and whilst I'm working they explore themselves. Australia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore are amongst our travels. Sri Lanka and New Zealand are next on our list! It is great that we as a family have all these opportunities in life!