Art Exhibition: From Persecution to Hope

January 25, 2013 Updated: March 31, 2014

An upcoming art exhibit in Ottawa offers more than a cultural experience—it takes the viewer from the routine world into the inner spiritual life of Falun Dafa (Falun Gong) practitioners and details the ongoing persecution they endure in China.

The Art of Zhen, Shan, Ren (Truth, Compassion, Tolerance) International Exhibition, which opens Feb. 5, consists of 26 oil and watercolour paintings that are rendered in a realistic style. The works are by 12 artists, all of whom practice Falun Dafa, with diverse backgrounds and training in the arts. 

The painters strive to better themselves through the meditation practice, and that spirit is reflected in their paintings. The exhibit also educates the public about the persecution against the group in China that began in 1999.

Four paintings in the exhibit are by Ottawa artist Kathleen Gillis. As a key organizer, she hopes people will keep an open mind about the content of the exhibition.

“We don’t shy away from beauty—we acknowledge it. Contemporary art shies away from beauty,” she said.

“We also don’t shy away from truth, even unpleasant truths, and we don’t shy away from the phenomena that exist around us that some people have access to and some don’t. 

“By that I mean some people feel that there are celestial beings, that they exist, and some people have visionary experiences, and we don’t shy away from portraying those. If we feel that that is true we say it.”


The overall feeling people will get from the exhibit as a whole is one of hopefulness.

— Ottawa artist Kathleen Gillis

The website states, “The universal principles of Falun Gong—Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance—bring hope to humankind. However, since 1999 the Chinese Communist Party has carried out a brutal persecution of this peaceful meditation practice.”

“So it is up to Falun Gong practitioners themselves in the middle of this persecution to raise awareness and bring out the truth. They continually speak the truth to provide an opportunity for the world’s people to take a stand and position themselves.”

The artworks will be displayed in seven thematic groupings. They include themes that deal with the persecution and the nonviolent response to the torment and oppression that has been inflicted on Falun Dafa practitioners in China for 13 years.

Practitioners suffer horrendous torture but remain steadfast in their belief. The exhibit highlights the splendour of the peaceful practice and provides hope, as those persecuted don’t fight back but selflessly remind their captors that they are doing wrong and there may be consequences for their actions.

“The bottom line is, even if you see a painting that is upsetting or evokes some negative emotion, the overall feeling people will get from the exhibit as a whole is one of hopefulness,” Gillis notes.


“I think sometimes we have given up on humanity, and this will help people understand that not everybody has given up. Because even in the most horrible circumstances there is always a kind of trust and vision the practitioners have, and a sense that this may be horrible but we have our eyes on another horizon.”

The exhibition will run Feb. 5–10 in the Kildare Room of Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. On opening night, Tuesday, Feb. 5, there will be an informal viewing at 7–9 p.m., and Gillis will be on hand to talk about the works.

For information about the art exhibit please visit

Kathleen Gillis is an artist living in Ottawa.

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