In the sole curve of a wood grain lies a fluid-like movement akin to the crest of a wave. Separate elements, albeit parallel in impression, have served as both an inspiration and a medium for brothers and Hamptons natives Gregory and Matthew Barton. Inspired by Jackson Pollock and the crew of abstract expressionist painters that became the stuff of art legend, the artists—Gregory a sculptor, Matthew a photographer—created Hamptons Surf Company, a creative collective connected by art, surf and the East End.
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“There’s so much surf culture, and artists have been going [to the Hamptons] for such a long time because of the history. We are trying to embrace as much of the surf culture as the art culture. At the center of the brand is a collective community, promoting the best of the area. It’s a feeling that has always been there,” Matthew said.
Founded in 2017, Hamptons Surf is best known for its photo surfboards—functional pieces of art that meld photography and sculpture. Fellow artists and collaborators have helped the brothers express the Hamptons vibe and the history behind it through other outlets. Part of this includes the addition of a clothing line to help establish their company as a lifestyle brand. As Hamptons Surf Company continues its forward movement, including the introduction of custom-designed boards, the Bartons are sharing how two surfer bros turned classically trained artists are putting their spin on culture.
What was the genesis of Hamptons Surf Company?
Gregory Barton: It just makes me laugh that all this started on a trip to Riverhead, which is only fitting because it takes so long to get there. Matthew and I were doing our own separate thing, and like typical brothers, we would fight and play in a healthy mix. We were spit balling and thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we did this collaboration effort to create things and have a different platform for our ideas and notions?” Then we said, “Why don’t we do it right now?” Matthew whipped up a quick logo, it only took fifteen minutes, and the whole thing spawned from there.
How has this evolved?
Matthew Barton: We kind of put our own spin on it. We’re artists and we have a diverse group of friends, but we’re not limited to this. If someone is of like mind to us, we’re into it. As the backbone of this, we give artists the opportunity they may not have on their own. It is fluid, and we’re developing it as we go. As long as it fits, we’re open to anything.
GB: We began by featuring artists and friends in the community that could use more exposure. Slowly but surely, we promoted our own stuff and encouraged others to work and create with us. There is clothing and photo boards, but the purpose is to be an artist collectively. It’s people with like minds bound together by the Hamptons.
What is the process for making the photo boards?
GB: The process takes a lot of hands to put the whole thing together. We like to talk about our ideas always having a direction. We’ve done a horizon series, ocean textures and an anonymous surfer series. First, we select photos that go with the series and shape the boards accordingly. The process matches up the physical object with a photo to get the right feel for how they interact. This can take anywhere from two hours to two days. Printed fiberglass is used to put the photo into the physical board. It is multiple steps over multiple days. A lot of waiting for the paint to dry—literally. We continue to refine the process as we go along.
MB: We really think about each board as an individual art piece. Gregory thinks of different shapes that work with the photographs. We scan through to see what works. He’ll shape the board, send me an image of the shape and I’ll take the photos we had in mind and do a digital mock up. We try to create the actual art piece before it goes into production. It becomes a collaboration, as we know how the other works. We have a fiberglasser, Matt Leverett, that we work with. We talk to him about our vision, and in his final step he does the color. We know what we want to see from it, and he finishes the job.
How do you marry each of your own individual creative processes?
GB: It’s funny because our processes are very different. Matthew is killer at the photography game, and it is always an interesting process—especially with the sculpture component. Surfboards are a new and exciting challenge. Hamptons Surf Company made us evolve as artists. We work separately and together, and we are pure artists even though we may come across as surfer bros. I joke that I never do the same thing twice: mixing it up and keeping it fresh. The beauty is that it’s not only the surfboards. I love to experiment. I’ve been working with the foam and screen-printing as well. I’ve been able to do so many different things. Everything you make may not be good enough to be shown or put in a gallery. If we decide we have something that is crap, that’s totally fine.
MB: I have always viewed photography as a love-hate relationship. I know that so many people are doing it, and I really tried to develop myself by pushing myself in different directions. Now I do photography, clothing, websites, social media, which are all one in the same as anything creative comes together. On a personal level, I am mostly a film photographer. We’ve used them in photo boards, but it’s not something people jump to for a high-resolution image. I get to explore my passion and combine it with Hamptons Surf Company. We are artists first—and this is an expression of our art—but we’re not necessarily only creating things for the brand. We’re creating on the side, too. The two balance each other out. The amount of growth we have seen through this process is pretty incredible. Photography and sculpture give us more options than doing it on our own.
How do the Hamptons factor into the brand and working with other artists?
GB: The concept of the East End and the Hamptons is what connects us. Not so much the physical location but the vibe and what it stands for and the history behind it. We’re linked and intertwined on that foundation. Sure, they love the beach, but [we’re doing] things we feel are progressive and interesting. We want people who are ready to push limits and take risks because we have the ability to do so.
MB: The brand really does embody the lifestyle. So many people talk about lifestyle brands and I know that’s what we’re seen as, but it’s really truly thinking about the area…We’re also pushing the artist brand aspect to differentiate ourselves from people doing similar things. At the center of the brand is a collective community, promoting the best of the area.