When Bob and Roberta Smith - pseudonym of the artist Patrick Brill - was elected a Royal Academician in 2013, he had a more complex relationship with the Royal Academy than most. He remembers well the feeling of suspense as his parents, both artists, waited to hear whether their submissions had been accepted for the annual Summer Exhibition. The outcome brought jubilation or despair, but rarely to both, which led to its problems.
In The Secret to a Good Life, Bob and Roberta Smith introduces his mother, Deirdre Borlase, and her encounters with the often sexist and class-ridden art establishment of post-war Britain. Her story has led her son to ruminate on drawing, politics and the challenge that art can pose to authority. In the colourful signwriting style for which he is best known, the artist tells a poignant and political family story. In the end, it is Deirdre who provides the answer to the question: what is the secret to a good life?