Laing was born in Newcastle in 1936. Growing up during World War II, he experienced the Battle of Britain as a young boy.
Laing emerged on the British Pop Art scene in 1962, two years into his arts education at Saint Martin's School of Art, London. In 1963, his painting Brigitte Bardot (1963) was included in Young Contemporaries 63, an exhibition at the Royal Society of British Artists' Galleries in London. Shortly afterwards, he visited the United States, where he met Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and Roy Lichtenstein, and where he spent a summer working for Robert Indiana. He moved to New York in 1964, having received an offer for representation from Richard Feigen Gallery, and he aligned himself with the American Pop Art movement. In 1965, he dramatically shifted his practice towards sculpture.
Returning to Britain in 1969, Laing based himself in Scotland at Kinkell Castle and became actively involved in its reconstruction for the next fours years. His three-dimensional steel sculpture of this period, inspired by the Scottish countryside, was described by David Alan Mellor as 'steely, fashionable and stylishly rationalised in its industrial references'.
In 1993 the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh staged a retrospective exhibition of his work. In the early twenty-first century, Laing did a series of anti-war paintings, based primarily on photographs from the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. These paintings were the beginning of his return to pop art. They were followed in 2004 by a series of Amy Winehouse paintings, as well as paintings of Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss.
Since Laing's passing in 2011, his works have been included in nearly every major survey of British Pop Art. 'My work has been varied, and so has my life - full of ups and downs; on top of the world one minute, descending into alcoholism the next,' Laing recalled. 'But life is what you make of it, and when you have the confidence to go out and follow your dreams it can take you on an incredible journey.'
His work is exhibited in public and private collections around the world, including at the Tate, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in London; and in the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum, New York, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.