Kenneth Lam, A seat at our table
7 Mar – 12 Oct 2024
Free and open to all
SPACE Ilford

Launch event: Thu 7 March 2024, 4 – 7.30pm

Kenneth Lam presents his first solo exhibition A seat at our table, an invitation for audiences to explore the dishes, meals and memories of our own cultural identities. A contemporary take on classical still life, the photographs explore heritage, diaspora and food as a common language between our neighbours in Redbridge.

Local residents supported Kenneth Lam by sharing their stories and allowing him to explore their identity through portraits and still life, using personal artefacts, food and pastimes which resonate with their sense of self. 

Through the exhibition, Kenneth has recreated this sense of heritage using the table as a powerful symbol of home – it is somewhere where we connect and reflect, it is a place of celebration and ceremony. Ultimately, it is not bricks and mortar which defines home or who we are as individuals. Our identities are forged from our memories and experiences and reflected in how we craft a place of belonging.

Kenneth says: “Food has always been a love of mine; coming from a family of chefs and restaurant owners, like many other immigrants we sold food as a way to survive and eventually thrive in London. It’s amazing to think that my grandmother was a rice picker, my father cooked rice for British customers in a British Chinese restaurant and now his son is photographing this food and presenting it in an art gallery. This changing narrative is something I wanted to capture in the exhibition. Food is language, food is emotional, it is political and it is historical and it is something that connects us all. The food of the West has often been captured and celebrated in classical still-life paintings, but I wondered about the beauty behind other cultures’ dishes, ingredients which have been overlooked by a Western lens. So I began to interview Redbridge residents about their stories growing up in Ilford, hearing their excitement as they spoke of dishes, meals or rituals carried out around the table. An 87-year-old Irish woman who recalled the gatherings in the pubs of her childhood, finding sanctuary and familiarity in the sounds of instruments and games she played as a girl. An Indian boy learning to cook, watching his mother’s hands present dishes to his fathers and uncles. A group of Malaysian nurses, newly arrived in Redbridge, dreaming of the Chinese New Year dinner table they’d left behind, listening to the sound of their families laughing and celebrating over a long-distance phone call. Every table holds a different story and a different relationship to this place we call home – this exhibition highlights the beauty of these dishes, rituals, and stories that take place around the table.”

Kenneth Lam is a photographer based in London and Hong Kong. He began his career studying fashion photography at University of the Arts London. When travelling back to Hong Kong in 2019, his work naturally turned to portraiture and still life. His personal work focuses on themes such as heritage, identity, family and culture.

Balancing personal work with commercial, Lam uses set design and art direction to trace individual and familial memory and explore conversations with his photography, often from from an autobiographical and personal perspective.

In A Seat at our Table, Lam pays homage to his love of food, showcasing the beauty behind the stories of immigration and London’s ever-changing demographic. This will be his first solo show.

Lam has worked commercially with outlets such as the BBC, Nowness Asia, Wieden + Kennedy, Financial Times and Condé Nast.