Refugee artist shares gift

Out of pain can come beauty – that is the message Syrian refugee artist Aghiad Al Atassi is sending through his paintings, some of which have been selected in the AMES Australia Heartlands arts project.

Al Atassi and his family have lived in St Albans for the past two years after fleeing his war-torn homeland in terrifying circumstances in 2014.

“We were living in Homs, which was the first city that the revolution was beginning in,” he said.

“Our house was in the land between the Assad regime and the opposition forces, so it was terrible.

“I tried to stay, because it is our country, but one day my daughter was coming back from school with her friend and a bomb fell down close to them and one of my daughter’s friends died … I decided to leave immediately.”

Al Atassi took his family to Mersin in Turkey,

where they lived for 18 months before coming to live in Australia through the United Nations refugee program.

While painting is just a hobby – Al Atassi is a dental technician by trade – he has used his experience of refugee life to create beautiful portraits from his memory.

“It is hard to paint some of this stuff sometimes, but we get used to living with those difficult circumstances,” he said.

“I hope people will appreciate the fragility of life through my art and realise that behind the statistics of war and the arguments over ideologies there are people, ordinary people wanting a better life and wanting peace.”

The Heartlands 2017 arts project will open on Friday, June 9, at the Walker Street Gallery in Dandenong.