Ye Nan was born in Hangzhou in 1984 and graduated from the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou in 2006 where he was a pupil of the prominent multi-media artist Qiu Zhijie. He has since developed a practice that embraces installation, video, photography and painting.

In his first major body of work, Phosphorous Red, Ye Nan used phosphorous, the material used in match heads, in a suite of prints that incorporated imagery from a wide range of sources including space travel and colonization, nationalism, politics, the principles of chemistry and physics, and rock music. After two years of experimentation in which he further refined his use of this potentially dangerous material, he embarked on a series of large paintings, and narrowed the focus of the thematic content of the works in order to concentrate on the deep-lying symbolism of his material.