Asylum Seekers' Exhibition Reveals the Art of Peace; Some Exhibitions Are Short but Sweet. DAVID WHETSTONE Reports on One by Artists Who Have Found Peace in Their Lives

Article excerpt

SOMETIMES it isn't the established art galleries that exhibit the most affecting and accomplished work. An example of that is today's exhibition at the Minsteracres Retreat Centre in Northumberland.

The exhibition is called A Place Around the Hearth, and it features work by two artists who sought sanctuary in Britain after they were forced to leave their homes overseas.

Ausama Khalil, from Iraq, and Fetlework Tesfaye, from Ethiopia, have been artists in residence at Minsteracres, the Roman Catholic retreat just off the A68 near Kiln Pit Hill. The pair are both clients of the British charity Freedom from Torture - formerly The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture - so have stories to make your hair stand on end.

But the most important thing to say is that both are clearly very accomplished artists with a skill that owes nothing to the pain they have suffered in their lives.

Ausama Khalil, in his mid-40s, was an established artist and designer in Iraq before the country became mired in war and bloodshed.

Having enjoyed what he describes as a lovely job and a stable lifestyle, he decided to seek refuge in the UK in 2006 after he was tortured by a group seeking to put pressure on his brother, an army officer.

Coming to Britain as an asylum seeker, he was forced to begin a new life "from zero". He now lives in Middlesbrough and has been granted the right to remain here indefinitely.

His vibrant paintings recall the shapes and colours associated with the architecture of the Middle East. …