Like Moths to a Flame:

Recent Works by Ye Nan

11.17.2012 – 12.28.2012




Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on November 17 of Like Moths to a Flame: Recent Works by Ye Nan. This exhibition is a development of procedures first glimpsed in Phosphorous Red - Ye Nan's first exhibition at Chambers in 2010. In the past two years, Ye Nan has developed a more in-depth understanding and application of red phosphorous as a particular artistic medium. His bold and highly innovative thinking and experimentation show no signs of stopping, but are ever more active, accentuating the playful and conceptual aspects of the work.

The title of the exhibition Like Moths to a Flame comes from Ye Nan's musings on the phenomenon of moths flying into flames. In scientific theory, the phenomenon is a result of the insect's built-in celestial navigation. Moths rely on their inherent compound eye structure to determine their direction in relation to moonlight. However, when an artificial light source appears, moths misidentify the artificial light as moonlight and fly towards it. A nearby artificial light is of course no celestial moon. Instinctively trying to maintain a constant angle with the light source, a moth flies around the light in a spiral trajectory, circle after circle, until it dies of exhaustion; or it flies into the flame. From a scientific perspective, the act of moths flying into flames is purely instinctual; on the other hand, in a literary sense, there is deep pathos. Though it appears to be a rather stupid suicidal act, the moths' immolation perpetuates the species' phototropism, which could be just the meaning of living for moths.

In this exhibition, Ye Nan combines his creative process with the principle of moths flying into flames, as if to signify some sort of inner connection between his work or this exhibition and the spirit of moths. He covers the canvas surface with red phosphorous, turning the canvas into a large matchbox striker. He then strikes matches on the canvas like magical paintbrushes, creating light and energy in the dark. The energy leaves its traces on the canvas, forming an image within the painting frame. The whole process is akin to producing an artificial light that attracts moths to the image, constructing a scenario between the real and unreal. It is worth mentioning that human intervention did not ever cause moths to forgo their nature, in relation to Darwin’s theory of evolution. For the artist, none of these interpretations is important, what really matters is to embody the spirit of moths in the pivotal moment when trying to achieve the sublime, as flame turns into ashes.

In recent years Chambers Fine Art has been committed to discovering and nurturing the careers of exceptional young artists, Ye Nan being one of them. Ye Nan was born in Hangzhou in 1984. Since graduating from the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou in 2006, he has produced an impressive body of work that is highly idiosyncratic both technically and thematically. The current exhibition features Ye Nan's most recent paintings on canvas as well as his latest video. Employing a strategy of substitution, the video captures fireworks explosion, which serves as a metaphor for Ye Nan’s painting process in slow motion. Such metaphorical device not only enhances the work’s playfulness, but also heightens a sense of being in the scene for the viewers. Meanwhile, elements from Ye Nan’s paintings- phosphorous and fire are also found in fireworks. This isn’t a mere coincidence. By transplanting the final moment of fireworks explosion from reality to canvas, Ye Nan also introduces to the viewers another evanescent beauty in moths flying into flames.