Richard Sharland : Biography

Richard Sharland is an artist, writer, environmentalist and animateur. Born in London in 1952 and hailing from Devon and Cornwall, he was brought up in southern England, Malaysia and Germany. He was first inspired to paint by his teacher, William Lyons-Wilson, a prominent west country watercolourist. Stimulated by the ideas and cultural changes of the 1960’s, he abandoned a law degree course in 1972, and ‘left town’ to go and ‘live in the woods’ with his wife Jan – and to paint.

The journey ‘back to nature’ led to a long excursion in British Columbia and three years living in the wilds of rural Northumberland; it provided the background to the early development of my work as a painter and, for five years in the 1970s, I exhibited watercolours regularly in northern England and Scotland.

In 1978, I began working for voluntary organisations, initially in arts and community organisations, then in the environmental sector. Then I spent 15 years as the chief executive of environmental charities (Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Groundwork St Helens) and 10 as a national director at Groundwork UK, shaping partnerships and securing resources for national environmental programmes in some of Britain’s poorest communities. This environmental career completed with 4 years at Manchester City Council, creating long term strategies for the city to tackle and adapt to the challenges of climate change.

Throughout this time, my experience of place, landscape and environment grew and evolved; and I developed my practice as an artist. I held one man shows at Birmingham’s Custard Factory in 2002 and in Piccadilly Place, Manchester in 2014. Towards the end of 2014 I published ‘Emerging From Anaesthesia’ a collection of poems and digital images written during my 40 year relationship with my wife, Jan, and the life we led in northern England. Jan died of breast cancer in 2011.

In 2013, I moved to the west country to concentrate again on the creative life and to be closer to roots and family. In Altarnun, Cornwall in 2014, I found the place to set up home and studio and to create the gallery that has been quietly in my thoughts for many years.

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Terre Verte Gallery

The village

Altarnun is an old moorland village right on the edge of Bodmin Moor, close to the A30 as it begins to head deep into Cornwall. It is renowned for its large church – the ‘Cathedral of the Moors’ – an old pack horse bridge and its unspoilt stone and slate buildings, a quiet gateway to the northern part of the moor.


Stood on the village’s main street, the Terre Verte Gallery was established in 2014 in part of the building previously known as ‘Pooleys Stores’. There was a small barn here when the village’s Liberal Club was built in 1913; then, in 1945, the Pooley family made it all into a shop, a store and their home, for more than fifty years. Now it has undergone a further transformation – into a gallery, a studio and a home.


Most of the conversion work undertaken to create the gallery has involved improvements to its energy efficiency, adding insulation and renewable energy systems: photo-voltaic panels, a wood-pellet boiler, and an electricity provider committed to ‘green’ energy that is benign in its impact on the planet.


The idea of Terre Verte is to be a quiet oasis of creativity and inspiration where artists work can be exhibited in space and style. Participants include artists from the local area as well as from elsewhere in the UK and the world: accomplished painters, sculptors, ceramicists and photographers, experimenters as well as artists exhibiting for the first time. Each year, there is a programme of exhibitions from April to December with themes that link artists and their work to shared ideas, or places, methods and materials.


Everything is connected. As Terre Verte becomes established, it is evolving partnerships and networks with friends, neighbours and other organisations. Collaborations with Sterts Theatre, the Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival, Plymouth College of Art, the Charles Causley Festival, the Word Factory, Cornwall Life, the Tate Look Groups and the New Art Examiner have already contributed to growing the gallery and its reputation.


The inspiration for Terre Verte arose principally from three people who were strong early influences: William Lyons-Wilson, my first teacher, the master who introduced me to the lucid world of watercolour, began to reveal to me the artist within; Li Yuan Chia whose LYC Museum in the border fells near Brampton, Cumbria introduced me to the practice of running an art gallery as an art form; and my mother, Marjorie Sharland, who nurtured my earliest years, passed on to me the sensitive gene that is creative, loves the wild and with whom I held my first exhibition at the British Council in Singapore in 1969.


Altarnun is close to the A30, seven miles west of Launceston and the Devon/Cornwall border. The gallery is on the main street coming through the village, Satnav will find it at PL15 7SJ.