Ealing-based artist and musician and winner of The London Magazine cover competition Martin Lau reveals what is is like to be a creative in the borough, his latest work and the opportunities that present themselves for those in the arts across Ealing.
“My photomontage series Alteration harks back to my early childhood in the 1970s, spent in Southall and Greenford. Back then the main cultural input I received was through television, although I loved Greenford Library, which in hindsight was amazingly well curated, with shelves full of Nabokov and Lem alongside the modern romances. The landscape of Greenford, which I always felt was on the very edge of London, especially the A40 leading to Perivale, heavily influenced my sensibilities and interest in “in-between” spaces and corporate and industrial environments.
“Fast forward and I was looking to move out of Greenford, and started looking around East London, to get closer to the arts scenes going on in the East End. But in the end I decided that staying in Ealing would be a better match for my everyday life, and soon after that decision the East End went through a rapid period of gentrification that left it markedly changed.
“In terms of artistic opportunities, from quite early on in my art practice I have been collaborating with OPEN Ealing, ever since they were opposite Ealing Fire Station on Uxbridge Road. They have gone through a number of changes since then, and now have a modern space in Dickens Yard in Ealing Broadway where I’m really thrilled to be able to host a monthly experimental music event called Ealing Extranormal, which has been running since 2021. I was also delighted to exhibit images from the Alteration series at the new OPEN Southall space at the end of last year.
“Ealing has a couple of top-level publicly backed art spaces in Pitzhanger Manor and Gunnersbury Museum, which exhibit very well-known artists such as Anthony Caro and Anish Kapoor, and it’s wonderful that they also provide a platform for community-based art and creativity.
“It would be tremendous if there was also a realistic opportunity for emerging and mid-career working artists to show their work in these places, such as through themed exhibitions that accept open calls. Pitzhanger Manor used to run an open exhibition, but that was only every two years, and seems to no longer be running. At my studios there are a number of quite successful artists who live in Ealing and exhibit internationally, and it does seem strange that their work can’t be seen in the borough at these or similar venues.
“Speaking of the studios, the establishment of the West Ealing branch of SET, where I rent an affordable artist space, has been the real icing on the cake for me in recent years. And of course it is down to the competition that they ran with The London Magazine that I’ve had the privilege of having a piece from Alteration feature on that publication’s front cover (the Feb/March 2024 edition), as well as an interview on their web site. With a convenient studio and the chance to regularly curate events, I’m glad that I decided to stay in Ealing.