'The title Rustam Series
(2011–12) references the hero of the Persian Shahnameh
(Book of Kings). The protagonist of Ferdowsi’s 11th-century epic poem is recognized for his valor and strength…the paintings allude to the persecution of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a community that finds itself displaced on both sides of the border. The work depicts demons, and suggests that the legendary character of the Rustam has been usurped in contemporary times as justification for hostility and bloodshed, his heroism now ascribed to those who perpetrate violence and domination. Layered in these works are excerpts from epic poems and literary references to Persian and Afghan history and culture, keys to meaning that the violence of contemporary conflict cannot efface…Following the style of miniature painting, and in particular the technique of neem rang
(half-color), the artist uses traditional methods of production including pigmentation with gold and silver leaf. This traditional South Asian aesthetic, now also marked by Persian influences, is a form of Mughal painting that was once used in illustrated texts, primarily to represent royalty, battles, and legends. The rich and sensitive detailing of these historical portraits is, like the literary epic, revived in Ali’s work, which accords the traditional practice a contemporary relevance by aligning its cultural significance with the circumstances of today.' (J. Yap, UBS MAP Curator for South East and South Asia, Guggenheim Museum- https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/31232)
Ali started painting the Rustam series in 2007; it soon became highly acclaimed, resulting in commissions and acquisitions by major art institutions around the world including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia and the Guggenheim, New York, to name a few.