We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Mirror painting (2)



Coen Young


1988 –

  • Details

    Media categories
    Painting , Photograph , Mixed media painting
    Materials used
    acrylic paint and silver nitrate on paper
    240.0 x 145.0 cm; H 238.5 x L 148.3 x D 80.2 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Signed verso l.r. corner, black marker "Coen Young". Dated verso l.r. corner, black marker "2019".

    Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors 2020
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Coen Young

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Coen Young

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Sydney-based artist Coen Young has a practice that flirts with the edge between painting and photography. The abstract Mirror paintings he has produced over recent years have become an artistic signature. They are made by applying silver nitrate directly onto paper that has been coated with other media and chemicals. Once the silver is fixed it is washed in a process akin to printing gelatin silver photographs. The resulting surface is reflective but opaque. It is a mirror that inhibits legibility and thwarts representation. Young’s works conceal more than they reveal but in doing so they alert us to the indeterminacy and elasticity of perception.

    Like all of Young’s Mirror paintings, this work implicates the viewer within the composition. We can’t look at it without seeing ourselves and our surrounds duplicated. We admire the luminosity of the surface but keep catching glimpses of our own bodies, warped. Yet this is precisely the point; Young forces us to wrestle with his work. Their material presence, though monumental, is also somewhat withheld. Our attention toggles. The act of looking here is animated, and we – as viewers – become performers. Youngs paintings are never passive. Rather, they play and quietly provoke.

Other works by Coen Young