Toronto-based artist Viktor Mitic thinks we need to have a serious conversation about gun violence in our culture. And he’s trying to provoke it by creating art — with a gun.

At his solo exhibition scheduled to open April 4 in Toronto, he’ll show a series of pop art pictures he's created — of figures such as John Kennedy, John Lennon, Benazir Bhutto and Marilyn Monroe — each of them outlined with bullet holes.

Mitic learned to shoot during compulsory military service in the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s.

He studied at the University of Toronto and now leads a tranquil life with his Japanese-Canadian wife and young son, until it comes time to finish off his art.

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Viktor Mitic meets Jean Chretien after presenting his painting to the former prime minister. (Viktor Mitic )

Each image gets a fresh coat of paint — in vibrant colours — before Mitic sets it up in a shooting range and fills it with bullet holes.

"It just worked out well because the effect that I was getting on canvas was not only the bullet points, the black powder being embedded into the surface of the canvas, it was also something that would make me think a bit more about ..you know...the issues," he said.

He’s been criticized for glamorizing gun culture, but his aim is actually to draw attention to it. Mitic says he’s horrified by incidents such as the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the shootings at a Danzig Street barbecue in Toronto last summer.

His upcoming show, titled Bullet Proof, places the issue of guns in front of viewers who often have visceral reactions to the bullet holes in the canvas.

Mitic’s images are often of famous people, but also of scenes – one from the War of 1812, another a likeness to Guernica, Picasso’s seminal painting about the bombing of that Spanish city.

He has done paintings of both Stephen Harper and former prime minister Jean Chrétien — though not with the bullet-hole theme —and his work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada and Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton. He also has had attention from around the world for his bullet-ridden art.

Bullet Proof by Viktor Mitic will show at The Peach Gallery in Toronto from April 4 to May 2, 2013.