Mankind has been shaping clay for “greater than 12,000 years”, stated Emma Crichton-Miller within the FT. We now have used it to create every part from bricks and instruments to ornaments, and the materials bears a heavy “metaphorical load”: it even performs a key position in some “myths of human origin”. And whereas it was as soon as seemed down on by the artwork institution, pottery is presently “booming”: within the world of modern artwork, the success of potters equivalent to Grayson Perry helps to overturn any snobbery as soon as directed its approach.

This new exhibition is an “in depth” survey of how artists around the globe are exploiting clay’s potential to create strange work that would not exist in some other medium. Bringing collectively contributions from 23 worldwide artists, from the likes of Perry to digital unknowns, it reveals how the fabric “may give strangeness expression”, and it might additionally make “the acquainted unusual”. The result’s an especially “spectacular” present.

A lot of the work right here is “underscored by humour”, stated Nancy Durrant within the London Night Customary. Jonathan Baldock, for example, fields a collection of “huge totems exploring delusion and folklore”, a lot of that are adorned with “casts of his personal ears or palms” and “emoticons scattered about like ritual hieroglyphs”. Klara Kristalova, in the meantime, provides us a “completely bizarre” set up of 18 stoneware figures that includes “vegetation with eyes” and “fairies with mushrooms for mouths”.

Different works are “extra austere”, if no much less peculiar: Iranian-born Shahpour Pouyan provides us an “elegant” collection of works primarily based on “historic rooftops, rendered at small scale and displayed like so many soup tureens”. My favorite piece was David Zink Yi’s Untitled (Architeuthis), a useless large squid, “exquisitely rendered in gleaming ceramic, its slimy glazes asking: is that this ink or oil? Is that air pollution or a pure secretion? If I get near it, will it seize my ankle?”

A “dreary and pretentious” set up by the star potter Edmund de Waal is weak, although, stated Waldemar Januszczak in The Sunday Occasions. It consists of 9 glass instances full of “tiny ceramic cylinders” that supposedly talk “a human presence, or a benign haunting”: it’s “palpably ludicrous”. But, this misstep apart, the present is baggage of enjoyable.

There may be actual invention right here, not least in a chunk by Emma Hart that someway makes ceramic tiles simulate the view by a moist automotive windscreen. Higher nonetheless is Lindsey Mendick’s effort, which makes use of “an enormous tonnage of painted clay to recreate a complete home being overrun by vermin” – octopuses emerge from the bathroom, whereas the kitchen is overrun with slugs “so large they’ll wield a sushi knife”. It’s only one spotlight of a “punchy occasion” at this “reliably stimulating” gallery.

Hayward Gallery, London SE1 (020-3879 9555, southbankcentre.co.uk). Till 8 January