A SYRIAN artist who arrived on the first refugee flight is thanking Scotland through his work.

Prize-winning painter Nihad al Turk was arrested for opposing Bashar al Assad’s regime before fleeing the country with his wife Sawsan Osso for their safety.

The pair headed for Beirut before securing places on the first refugee flight from Lebanon in 2015 and the couple now lives in Edinburgh with their daughters Sara, two, and Margaret, 16 weeks.

The National:

Originally from Aleppo, al Turk achieved an international reputation from his home country, exhibiting in art capitals London, New York and Dubai and winning the Golden Prize at Syria’s Latakia Biennale show.

Art materials were amongst the few possessions he brought to Scotland, where he began working just four days after touching down.

He has now donated three works to a charity auction raising funds for the independent Leith School of Art (LSA), where he is rebuilding his practice.

The college gave him space to work when he arrived in Edinburgh and al Turk, a Syrian Kurd, said: “I worked hard for many years to build my career as an artist at home. But the war meant all that was lost and it became too dangerous to stay there.

“I am determined not to surrender. My aim now is to start all over again and build my reputation in this new country that has been so kind to us.”

Three pieces will be sold at Lyon & Turnbull auction house tomorrow. The event comes as al Turk’s life and work adjusts to his new surroundings. The artist says he has “fallen in love” with the city’s architecture, including the Balmoral Hotel, and plans to create a 75 metre-long painting which depicts the capital through his eyes.

It is hoped that the finished piece will be shown in a public square.

He said: “We have been made so welcome in Edinburgh, and the support I have had from Leith School of Art has been wonderful.

“I wanted to say thank you to everyone, and the best way I can do that is through my art.”

Based in a 150-year-old former Norwegian seamen’s church, LSA runs classes for around 300 students every week.

Glasgow artist Toby Paterson, who won the 2002 Beck’s Futures Prize, is amongst other auction donors.

LSA principal Phil Archer said: “The generosity of all the artists contributing to the auction has been tremendous. It is particularly inspiring that Nihad, who arrived with almost nothing, is helping support our charitable work.

“I have been impressed by his talent and determination.”