'Torn' is an intensely powerful and moving photographic portrait created by East End artist Kelly Coyle and was winner of Nil by Mouth’s 2017 ‘Pitch Perfect’ competition held in conjunction with Glasgow Kelvin College. It has been featured and discussed across a range of media outlets and has inspired other artists and members of the public to consider their own attitudes and experiences.
The portrait is currently being displayed at St Mungos Museum of Religious Life in Glasgow and has been used by numerous schools, in the city and beyond, to help spark discussions about issues of identity, sectarianism, mental health, difference and how children need to be allowed to find their own voices.
Below is an interview Kelly gave to the Evening Times in 2018 where she talks about her motivations behind creating the piece. For more information on how your school or group can use Kelly’s work to inspire conversations of your own please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘An East End artist’s heartfelt warning about the dangers of passing on sectarian attitudes to children has scooped first prize in a competition run by campaigners.Kelly Coyle’s photograph Torn was chosen as the winner of Nil by Mouth’s Pitch Perfect art competition held in conjunction with Glasgow Kelvin College During 2017 the charity, which was set up by former Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year Cara Henderson, worked with art students from the college to highlight the impact of sectarian behaviour on society.
The entries were judged by acclaimed Glasgow artist and leading member of the New Glasgow Boys Adrian Wiazniewski, who decided that Kelly’s piece conveyed the most powerful and dramatic message.
The 27-year-old, who lives in Bridgeton with her husband Jason and sons James (11) and Jack, (6), drew upon her own experiences of growing up in Glasgow for the artwork. The powerful photograph shows a young boy being pulled in different directions by those eager to ‘claim’ him as their own, with little thought to the child’s right to choose his own path in life.
My image was inspired by my life – I’m from a mixed family with one half Catholic Celtic supporters and the other Protestant Rangers supporters.
This led to tensions growing up and I found myself in a number of situations where I couldn’t understand why one side of my family could attend an event but the other couldn’t.
I used to ask questions – I saw the tension every week. When you’re a child you hear what people say are jokes, but you take them literally.
In my art I wanted to convey how this impacted on me a child.
Children have minds ready to be moulded and are often taught to hate by the tainted opinions of those around them, trying to teach them the way of ‘their’ colours instead of letting them choose their own.
As a child, Kelly says, she liked hearing the music of the local Orange walks as well as watching Celtic play football.
Why couldn’t I do both? Children usually pick a football team depending on what their family support but what if their family support both? How does this impact upon them? It left me feeling torn.
I hope my image can be used to highlight children’s mental health and how sectarianism can leave them feel shattered, broken and needing to ‘pick a side’.
Kelly’s recalls when her sons were little, a relative wanting to bring them Rangers teddy bears.
I remember saying, adamantly – you have to bring them Celtic ones too. I didn’t want it to start. My boys like football, but they are more into basketball and parkour.
Winning the competition has been a great boost for Kelly, who is hoping to concentrate on her art full time. Torn was recently unveiled at the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art where it will be on display to the public over the next 12 months thanks to support from Glasgow Life.
It was absolutely brilliant to win, I couldn’t believe it. I’m really proud of it. I hope when people see it, they think about what it means. It’s only when people start to see that football is just football, that we’ll be able to take the hate out of it and move forward.
Nil by Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott said:
We have always found that our most effective campaigns are those which harness the creativity and imagination of young people and the quality of the artwork produced by Kelly and her fellow students was fantastic.
Torn is an extremely powerful piece of art which doesn’t seek to dismiss anyone’s religious belief or cultural background but instead asks the viewer to stop for a moment and consider the impact of our behaviour on our children.
If we use sectarian words, chant sectarian songs or behave in a sectarian manner in front of children are we are passing on a positive version of our identity or are we simply encouraging them to hate others?
We are thrilled that Glasgow Life has agreed to display Torn over the next 12 months and we have no doubt that it will prove to be a popular and thought-provoking addition to the fantastic collection at St Mungo’s Museum.
Chairman of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, agrees:
This striking artwork will be used in our ongoing Glasgow: A Sectarian City? workshops, as it powerfully illustrates the difficulties that can face some young people who can be torn between different views within a family.