From Russia with Love - The Bolton artist couple behind Rus-Art

PUBLISHED: 12:04 16 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:22 20 February 2013

Irina and Gary in the gallery

Irina and Gary in the gallery

A long distance romance led to a Russian artist moving to Bolton and uncovering a passion for art. Amanda Griffiths meets her Photography by Kirsty Thompson

Irina Rumyantseva started painting professionally little more than a year ago when she and her Bolton-born husband, Gary Orrell, opened their own art gallery and studio

Now there is so much interest in her work she cant paint fast enough and its all thanks to her talent and the long distance romance that changed her life and brought her to Lancashire.

The couple met while on holiday in India but Gary managed to lose her phone number on the last night. He went back to the bat where theyd met but he couldnt find her. He continue to search via the internet when he got back to Bolton.

Eventually the couple got back in touch through the Russian version of Facebook and romance blossomed. They married in October 2009 and honeymooned back in India.

I never expected to be a professional artist, says Irina. There were so
many excellent artists in my home country that I needed to find a more realistic career.

So I studied and worked as a graphic designer. It was only when I came to the UK that Gary pushed me to take up art professionally.

Gary, who works as a sales manager as well as running the gallery, Rus-Art in Bolton town centre, adds: I came home from work one day and Irina was painting in the kitchen.

I thought they were really good, that she was very talented and a few were bought by my friends and family. She joined the New Artists Studio and entered pictures in their competitions and every time they had an exhibition all her paintings sold.

Irina held her first solo exhibition in October last year and it was then that she decided to abandon the kitchen table and set up her own studio and gallery.

It was a huge culture shock moving to Bolton, she says. The people are very friendly and welcoming. It is such a small place, it seems like everybody knows each other.

I did struggle with the differences at first and still see things that surprise me. Its funny, I expected to learn the Queens English but instead have learnt Bolton English and now say ta love to my husband!

There are now lots of Bolton folk saying ta love back to Irina as she hands them thre paintings theyve bought. Some of her work goes for
as little as 25 but prices are sure to rise.

My imagination is my inspiration, says Irina. I dont copy anything unless its a commission for somebody. I have my own technique using materials like acrylics, texture paste, crepe paper, string, pebbles, shells - anything I can lay my hands on really.

It all gives it great texture. For me its about making it stand out from
the canvas, she says. I also enjoy learning the techniques of others and adopting them in my work so Im always improving.

Because I didnt offer my work for sale in Russia I cant compare the interest in it in the two countries, but there has been so much interest here I just cant paint fast enough! And its not just in the UK, Im getting interest from all over the world. Considering I started less than a year ago its so overwhelming!

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