But Kaihori says being in the woods and nature in general, always made her feel she was where she belonged.
"When I reached New Zealand, in its landscapes I found the fragments of what felt like home and started incorporating them into my paintings."
Yukari Kaihori’s painting exhibition, From Here to Somewhere (28 June –20 July at Toi Pōneke Gallery), explores the interaction of physical space and surroundings.
The artworks challenge the common perception that ordinary places – places we walk by, places we know, places we may want to call home – are unchanging and so deserve no attention.
"The theme of the exhibition is the philosophical belief that nothing is constant – not even a familiar street, site, house, friends and family. Everything around us and everything within ourselves – nothing remains untouched. We all are living things that transform from moment to moment, process to process."
Kaihori takes a camera whenever she goes for a walk. She uses the photos as a skeleton of the image then recreates her experience of encountering the scenery. Organic shapes and vivid colours of the landscape appear daring but universal, something new but familiar, solid but fragile, and consistent but ephemeral.
While gaining a studio art degree in Oregon, Kaihori also studied in New York. After leaving USA, she had various jobs in Japan, exhibited, studied in the UK and travelled to find somewhere she might have a studio, and call home. In 2011, she reached New Zealand. Seeing the country’s nature and landscape, the collective fragments of her memories of home came together. "By creating my studio space, it did become home," she says.
"Painting comes naturally to me and it is an essential part of my life – just like sleeping. The paintings pile up whether I have places to show them or not."
From Here to Somewhere opens at 5.30pm on Thursday 27 June at Toi Pōneke Gallery. The gallery is open weekdays from 10am - 8pm and weekends from 10am - 4pm.